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The women accused of carrying out a daring February assassination on Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in a Malaysian airport returned to the scene of the crime Tuesday, retracing the steps that led them to allegedly smear the banned VX nerve agent onto Kim Jong Nam’s face, killing him.
Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, donned bullet-proof vests and handcuffs as they walked and then wheeled through Kuala Lumpur airport with more than 200 police officers, dozens of journalists and an entourage of court officials surrounding them. The Indonesian and Malaysian women are accused of killing Kim on Feb. 13, though they have insisted they were duped by North Korean agents and believed they were playing a prank for a reality television show. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Police clad in black uniforms, many carrying rifles and wearing masks, formed a security ring around the group while they toured the bustling airport for more than three hours. The women were placed in wheelchairs after they complained of exhaustion. Aisyah’s lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, told reporters the chaotic visit to the airport helped verify the location and surroundings of the murder scene, Reuters reported.
“The CCTV footages were taken from various cameras and various places, so from there we couldn’t get a complete picture on how [the incident] took place,” Gooi said at a news conference.
Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin told The Associated Press before the tour began he believed the visit would “strengthen the prosecution’s case.”
"I believe the visit to the crime scene will help strengthen the prosecution's case because it will allow the judge to follow the women's trail and understand why they took that path," he said.
The group visited the terminal’s restaurant where Aisyah was seen on surveillance video in February meeting with an unidentified man, and the restroom where the women flocked to after spreading the deadly chemical on Kim’s face. At one point, the women appeared emotional and one broke down in tears.
The airport visit comes on the third week of Aisyah and Huong’s trial, who both face the death penalty if convicted of the crime. Huong was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “LOL” when she lunged at Kim at the airport. Traces of the poison were discovered on the women’s clothes and Huong’s fingernails.
But prosecutors believe the women didn’t act alone. Four other North Korean men are suspected of recruiting and supplying Aisyah and Huong for the brazen assassination, but they have since vanished.
The involvement of the missing North Korean agents have fueled South Korea’s spy agency’s claim that the attack was part of a careful plot set up by the North Korean despot to kill a brother he reportedly never met. Kim Jong Nam was not known to be actively seeking influence over his younger brother but had spoken out publicly against his family's dynastic rule. Since he was also the eldest son of the late leader Kim Jong Il, he could have been seen as a potential rival to Kim Jong Un.
A report by Japanese magazine Nikkei Asian Review in August also claimed Kim Jong Un “flew into a rage” when he discovered his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was planning a coup with Chinese officials to overthrow him. The half-brother would then step in to lead the Hermit Kingdom in his place. Jang was assassinated in 2013 and branded “worse than a dog” and “despicable human scum.”
Kim Jong Un still has other siblings — two sisters and a brother — who are still alive, according to the BBC. Little is known about the siblings. He recently promoted his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to become an alternate member of the politiburo, a top decision-making body. Kim Jong Chul is reportedly an Eric Clapton megafan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.