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Cracking the case

Two women face murder charges after the assassination of Kim Jong Nam

Two women face murder charges after the assassination of Kim Jong Nam

Malaysian Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali confirmed to the Associated Press Tuesday that the two women suspected of carrying out an attack on Kim Jong Nam — Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong — would be charged with murder in court on Wednesday. The murder charge will come under Section 302 of the penal code and carries a mandatory death sentence if found guilty.

This move came as a high-level delegation of North Korean diplomats arrived in Malaysia Tuesday to discuss the “development of friendly relations” between the two countries, despite ongoing tensions surrounding the murder of Kim Jong Nam over two weeks ago.  Many suspect the assassination was carried out on the orders of his half brother — and supreme leader of the hermit kingdom — Kim Jong Un.

The women charged with murder claim they thought they were taking part in a prank TV show, though this has been dismissed by Malaysian police who say the women were seen practicing the attack in two different shopping centers in Kuala Lumpur prior to the fatal incident.

The North Korean delegation arrived in the Malaysia capital Tuesday, led by former North Korean ambassador to the United Nations Ri Tong Il, who said the main priority would be the return of the Kim Jong Nam’s body. While Malaysia has confirmed the identity of the body as that of Kim Jong Nam, North Korea has refused to do so, referring to him as Kim Chol, which was the name on the diplomatic passport he was carrying.

“The issues are related to the return of the North-Korean citizen remains, the released of the North Korean citizen who was detained by the police and the diplomatic relations between the two countries,” Ri Tong Il told reporters outside the North Korean embassy on Tuesday.

The latest developments in the bizarre case come over two weeks since Kim Jong Nam was killed in Kuala Lumpur airport by two women who rubbed a highly-toxic chemical called VX in his face. In the weeks since the attack, relations between the North Korean government and the Malaysian government have rapidly deteriorated.

North Korea has accused Malaysia of collusion with South Korea and the U.S., while Malaysia has pulled its ambassador from Pyongyang and urged all citizens not to travel to the secretive country.

Malaysia has so far refused to hand over the body to North Korea, despite repeated requests. It says it will only hand the body over to a member of Kim Jong Nam’s family who can provide DNA evidence. He is thought to have two sons and one daughter by two women who live in Macau and Beijing.

As well as the two female suspects, Malaysian police have arrested one North Korean man — Ri Jong Chol — and are seeking to talk to both North Korean diplomat Hyon Kwang Song and an employee of the North Korean state-owned airline Air Koryo. Both are thought to be hiding out at the embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian police say they will seek a warrant for Hyon’s arrest if he is not made available for questioning within a “reasonable” time.

On Monday South Korean lawmakers said that four other suspects identified by the police, and thought to have fled back to Pyongyang soon after the attack, are spies from North Korea’s Ministry of State Security.

Cover: Sipa USA via AP

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