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2 women charged with murder of Kim Jong Nam

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Posted at 5:49 AM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-01 07:49:55-05

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- Two women accused of killing Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpur airport have been charged with murder.

Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, citizens of Indonesia and Vietnam respectively, both said they were not guilty in the killing of Kim -- the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who died suddenly on February 13.

Police said they killed Kim by smearing VX, a deadly nerve agent, on his face.

If found guilty they will face the death penalty, according to charge sheets read in court Wednesday. The pair have not entered formal pleas, which will take place when the case reaches the High Court.

Wearing a red t-shirt and looking on the verge of tears, Aisyah was led to the dock in handcuffs.

"I do not admit this," she said when asked by an interpreter whether she understood the charges before repeating "I am not guilty of this."

Huong, who was photographed after the crime wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the letters "LOL," also said she was "not guilty" of murdering Kim.

According to authorities from their home countries, both women have maintained they thought they were participating in a TV prank show.

The charge sheet also mentioned "four others at large," who took part in the crime. Malaysian officials have previously named four North Koreans as suspects.

'Baby oil'

Aisyah thought the substance she rubbed on Kim's face was "a kind of oil, baby oil, something like that," said Andreano Erwin, Indonesia's deputy ambassador to Malaysia.

Malaysian authorities say it was in fact VX nerve agent, a deadly chemical weapon banned under international law.

Footage obtained by CNN showed Aisyah celebrating her 25th birthday at a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur the night before the killing.

"And now the person next to me will become a (celebrity)," one friend is heard saying in the video, prompting Aisyah to laugh.

Speaking to CNN in Serang, in Indonesia's Banten province, Aisyah's aunt said her niece had been hired "to work as a comedian," pranking strangers by putting lotion and tomato sauce on them.

"It would be impossible for such a tiny person like her to do such a crime (as murder) if she was not manipulated," she said.

A friend who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity agreed, saying that Aisyah was "naive" and easily "manipulated."

"Whatever that people said, she would believe. She would only follow," the friend said.

Deputy Indonesian Ambassador Andreano Erwin said outside court that he had met with Aisyah and she was "not alone."

"Indonesia will always be with her," he said.

North Korean plot

According to South Korean lawmakers, briefed by the country's intelligence officials, two North Korean ministries orchestrated the plot to kill Kim Jong Nam on the orders of his half-brother.

"The assassination of Kim Jong Nam was an act of systematic terror ordered by Kim Jong Un," South Korean lawmaker Kim Byung-kee said in a televised address. "The operation was conducted with two assassination groups and one supporting group."

North Korea has consistently denied any involvement in Kim Jong Nam's killing and accused South Korean media of publishing "false reports."

Four North Korean suspects have been named by Malaysian authorities, with another three wanted for questioning.