January 24, 2019 / 10:44 AM / 3 months ago

Malaysia appeal court gives defence access to witness statements in VX poison trial

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Lawyers for a woman accused of killing the half-brother North Korea’s leader said on Thursday they won access to witness statements after Malaysia’s Court of Appeal overturned a lower court ruling.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah, who is on trial for the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader, is escorted as she leaves the Shah Alam High Court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin/Files

The trial of Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 26, was suspended in December as her lawyers argued with prosecutors over access to statements made by seven witnesses. It was not clear when the trial would resume.

Siti Aisyah is charged along with Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 30, of poisoning Kim Jong Nam with liquid VX, a banned chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017.

Defence lawyers say the women thought they were playing a prank for a reality TV show and were tricked by North Korean agents who are still at large.

Siti Aisyah was set to take the stand this month after the court ruled last August that prosecutors had established a case against the two women.

But the trial was suspended after Siti Aisyah’s lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, appealed a court ruling denying him access to statements given by seven witnesses to police.

Gooi said the documents were vital to his client’s case as five of the witnesses had gone missing.

Malaysia’s Court of Appeal on Thursday overturned the court ruling and ordered the statements to be given to the defence team within two weeks, Gooi told reporters.

Prosecutors have appealed the decision, he said, which will likely further delay the trial.

“The prosecution has requested for a stay of the order as well as a stay in the proceedings of the trial,” Gooi said.

Kim Jong Nam, who was living in exile in Macau, had criticised his family’s dynastic rule of North Korea.

Some South Korean lawmakers say the regime of his half-brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, had ordered his execution. Pyongyang has denied the accusation.

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; editing by Darren Schuettler

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