A government chemist testified Thursday he found traces of the banned VX nerve agent on the two women who are standing trial in Malaysia on charges of murdering the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader.
The testimony was the first evidence linking VX to Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who are accused of smeared the nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a brazen assassination inside a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on 13 February.
Raja Subramaniam, who heads the government’s Center of Chemical Weapon Analysis, said he found VX in its pure form and VX precursors on Huong’s white jumper and found a degraded product of VX on cuts of Huong’s fingernails.
Huong was seen on airport surveillance videos wearing a white jumper emblazoned with the big, black letters, “LOL,” the acronym for “laughing out loud.”
The chemist, who is the only Malaysian with a PhD in chemical weapons analysis, said earlier in the morning that laboratory tests detected VX acid, a degraded product of the nerve agent, on Aisyah’s sleeveless T-shirt.
He said VX will degrade once it is exposed to the atmosphere, leaving degraded products of VX, and the best decontamination method is to wash under running water and physical scrubbing within 15 minutes of exposure to VX.
“The presence of VX precursors and VX degradation products confirms the presence of VX itself,” he told the court.
Raja also confirmed that he found VX on Kim’s face, eyes, and clothing and internally in his blood and urine.
Aisyah and Huong have pleaded not guilty to the murder charge that could bring the death penalty if they are convicted. They have not testified but their defence has said the women were duped by North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera TV show.
Gooi Soon Seng, lawyer for Aisyah, requested to view Huong’s LOL jumper, which was sealed in a transparent plastic bag before it was officially admitted as evidence. But Raja told the court that the VX is still active and that it would be safer to view it in the laboratory.
Gooi told reporters outside court that detection of VX on the women was not enough to convict them.
“If I have the knife, it doesn’t mean I killed the person. They must have other stronger evidence,” he said.
He also said Raja was inconsistent and shouldn’t be afraid to open the bag with Huong’s shirt since he testified VX could be easily washed off and doesn’t evaporate quickly. The VX-tainted evidence from Kim’s body and clothing was presented in court Wednesday in sealed plastic bags and the lawyers and court officials wore surgical masks and gloves.