Two women who killed Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, will go on trial, after a judge said evidence suggested they knew what they were doing.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Thuong smeared the toxic nerve agent VX on Kim Jong-nam’s face in Kuala Lumpur airport last year.
However, the women deny murder, saying they were told they taking part in a TV prank.
Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Thuong could face the death penalty if convicted.
Four North Korean men also charged over the murder are still at large.
Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong-un, had been waiting to board a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Macau on February 13, 2017, when two women approached him in the departure area.
CCTV footage shows one woman placing her hands over his face before she and the other woman leave the scene.
Kim Jong-nam is then seen seeking medical help – he told staff a chemical had been sprayed on him.
He died on the way to hospital from what was later found to have been exposure to the VX, one of the most toxic of all known chemical agents.
Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong – both in their 20s – have said they were innocent victims of an elaborate North Korean plot.
Their lawyers say that in the days before Kim Jong-nam’s death, the women had been paid to take part in pranks where they wiped liquid on people at airports, hotels and shopping malls.
They thought the airport was just another prank.
Their lawyers had expressed confidence that the court would see they had no motive to kill Kim Jong-nam.
However, Judge Azmi Ariffin said there was enough evidence to suggest it was “a well-planned conspiracy between the women and the four North Koreans at large”.
He said there was no hidden crew and no attempt to bring the target in on the joke afterwards, and that the footage “showed that they had the knowledge that the liquid on their hands was toxic”.
They will now go on trial for murder and could be hanged if found guilty.
Kim Jong-nam was the older half-brother of Kim Jong-un.
He was once seen as a future leader of North Korea, but when his father died, was bypassed in favor of the younger Kim.
Kim Jong-nam was largely estranged from the family, and spent most of his time overseas in Macau, mainland China and Singapore.
He had spoken out in the past against his family’s dynastic control of North Korea and in a 2012 book was quoted as saying he believed his half-brother lacked leadership qualities.
North Korea has fiercely denied any involvement in the killing.
Four men – believed to be North Koreans who left Malaysia on the day of the murder – have also been charged in the case, but have not been found.
Judge Azmi Ariffin said on August 16: “I cannot rule out that this could be a political assassination. Despite that, I am unable to confirm this fact.”