In Malaysia's high court, pathologist testifies Kim Jong Nam was killed by weapon of mass destruction

Saturday, October 7, 2017

On Wednesday, pathologist Mohd Shah Mahmood testified before Malaysia's high court in the trial of Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, who stand accused of killing Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Mohd Shah, an employee of the Malaysian government, testified that VX nerve agent, by international treaty a weapon of mass destruction, caused Kim's death, and Judge Azmi Ariffin officially admitted tissue and fluid samples as evidence. Both Aisyah and Huong are subject to the death penalty if convicted of killing Kim.

The samples were sealed in plastic when presented at court, but the judge and lawyers for both the prosecution and defense nonetheless wore protective gloves and masks to examine them. Both the North Korean government and Aisyah's lawyer have said the victim may have died of a heart attack or some cause other than VX nerve agent.

Mohd Shah based his conclusion on VX nerve agent in Kim's system and on the timing of Kim's death: he expired on the way to a hospital, less than two hours after encountering Aisyah and Huong. He also testified Kim Jong Nam had six different medications in his system, one a common Viagra heart-condition treatment, but no indications of a heart attack when he examined Kim's body. He also said neither this nor the other medicines Kim was taking would have killed him quickly.

Aisyah's lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, argued the autopsy reports indicate only that Kim was killed by chemical poisoning, not necessarily by VX nerve agent, and Mohd Shah admitted under cross-examination he does not have much experience with VX and other nerve agents.

Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, age given as 28 or 29, pled not guilty of murdering Kim Jong Nam on Monday, though they do not contest they met him. Both were represented by lawyers hired by their home countries' respective governments. Both women are on video approaching Kim in Kuala Lumpur International Airport where one of them sprayed him with liquid, but they both claimed they had been hired to spray travelers with a harmless substance as part of a prank TV show. Aisyah's lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, told the press his client had already performed the prank several times, always with oil or pepper. According to the police, the two men who hired Huong and Aisyah were Hong Song Hac and Ri Ji U, North Koreans who avoided questioning by, respectively, fleeing Malaysia and remaining within the North Korean embassy.

Huong's lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, said after a prosecution phase of probably about two months, at the Judge's discretion the defense would proceed. Proceedings earlier this week included testimony from an airport employee, a police officer who spoke to the dying Kim, and pathologists who examined samples from Kim, Huong and Aisyah. Dr. Norashikin Othman of Hospital Kuala Lumpur testified Kim Jong Nam's blood, liver and other tissues appeared to have been depleted of cholinesterase, an enzyme we need to move. "The low cholinesterase level in Kim Chol could be caused by exposure to poisons such as insecticide or nerve agents," he said, and that Huong and Aisyah both had normal levels of cholinesterase. He said the two women could have protected themselves by washing their hands, which both women did that day, or by taking antidote.

The alleged poisoning took place at Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Image: Sabre23t.

Gooi Soon Seng told the press the prosecution had not disclosed this information to the defense before Norashikin's testimony: "This piece of evidence was never served to us".

South Korean intelligence has maintained this was part of a plan on the part of Kim Jong Un or his government to assassinate Kim Jong Nam, who had once been his father Kim Jong Il's heir apparent. They had a falling out in 2001 and Kim Jong Nam had been living quietly with his family in Macao.

The events surrounding Kim's death have included diplomatic troubles between the formerly friendly North Korea and Malaysia, a hostage exchange, ambassador expulsions, and a break-in at the mortuary that housed Kim's remains.

Earlier statements from Malaysia's health ministry asserted Kim died within twenty minutes of his encounter at the airport, but testimony given this week differed from this.