Thu, Oct 05, 2017 - Page 4 News List

VX cited in Kim murder case

NERVE AGENT:As prosecutors presented VX-tainted samples in their attempt to show that it was the sole cause of death, court officials wore face masks and gloves

AP, SHAH ALAM, Malaysia

Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, center, is escorted by police as she leaves after a court hearing at Shah Alam court house in Shah Alam, Malaysia, on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

A Malaysian judge and court officials yesterday wore face masks and surgical gloves in court as samples were admitted as evidence of where VX nerve agent was found on the body and clothing of the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

On the third day of the murder trial of the two women accused of poisoning Kim Jong-nam, government pathologist Mohamad Shah Mahmood said chemical tests detected VX, as well as VX precursors and VX byproducts, in Kim Jong-nam’s eye mucus, on his face, in his blood and urine, and on his clothing.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers then took a 20-minute break to examine those samples, which were sealed in transparent plastic bags. Most of them wore gloves and masks as a safety precaution after prosecutors warned the VX-tainted items might still be dangerous.

After the break, Judge Azmi Ariffin also covered himself as the samples were officially admitted as evidence.

The two suspects, Siti Aisyah of Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, have pleaded not guilty to murder charges that could bring the death penalty if they are convicted.

They have not testified, but their defense has said the women believed they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera TV show and were tricked by men suspected of being North Korean secret agents.

Prosecutors also sought to show VX was the sole cause of death.

Mahmood said toxicology tests found six types of drugs in Kim Jong-nam’s blood that are used to treat diabetes, hypertension and gout, but he said those drugs and those conditions would not have caused his swift death.

He also said the autopsy found no sign Kim Jong-nam had a heart attack.

Mahmmod said his conclusion that Kim Jong-nam died of “acute VX poisoning” was based on a chemical report of the presence of VX and the swiftness of death.

Earlier testimony showed Kim Jong-nam died within two hours of being attacked in a crowded Kuala Lumpur airport terminal, not within 20 minutes as earlier stated by the Malaysian Ministry of Health.

The pathologist said the VX was most likely applied on Kim Jong-nam’s face and eyes, where the nerve agent was detected, with the fastest absorption through the eye mucus.

“VX is very toxic and it acts fast. There is a very slim chance of survival,” he said.

Under cross-examination by defense lawyers, Mahmood admitted he has limited knowledge of VX and nerve agents in general. He said he did not know the amount of the poison that was used.

Gooi Soon Seng, defense lawyer for Aisyah, told the court that Mahmood had no right to conclude Kim Jong-nam died of acute VX poisoning because the autopsy findings and clinical symptoms merely showed chemical poisoning, but Mahmood said the chemist report clearly showed VX was present.

The judge earlier in the day upheld his ruling to remove sections of the post-mortem report that defense lawyers said were hearsay or unproven.

Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin asked for the case history provided by the investigation police officer, and clinical history by the airport doctor and a government doctor to be reinstated.

He said the information is not hearsay as the police officer and doctors would be called to testify.

Ariffin told prosecutors they could seek a revision of his ruling at the end of their case.

Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, the lawyer representing Huong, criticized the “complete U-turn” by prosecutors and said it was unacceptable as the court had already ruled.

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