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Women to deny airport assassination of Kim Jong Un's half brother

Two women accused of poisoning the half brother of North Korea's ruler Kim Jong Un in an airport assassination are expected to plead not guilty in court on Friday, their lawyers said.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong are suspected of smearing Kim Jong Nam's face with the banned VX nerve agent at a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on February 13.

They are due to appear at the High Court in Malaysia, where they are expected to deny the allegation.

The women, who face the death penalty if convicted, say they were duped into thinking they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera show.

According to her lawyer Gooi Soon Seong, Aisyah, 25, was recruited in early January by a North Korean man, known as James, to star in his video prank shows.

The two met at a pub in downtown Kuala Lumpur and over the course of several days, James had Siti rub oil or pepper sauce on a victim's face from forehead downwards which he would film on his phone, the lawyer said.

Mr Gooi said they practised at malls, hotels and airports and that Aisyah was paid $100-$200 for each prank and hoped the income would allow her to stop working as a social escort.

In late January, Aisyah flew to Cambodia where James introduced her to Hong Song Hac, one of four North Korean suspects who left Malaysia on the day of the killing.

Mr Gooi said Hong asked Aisyah to do several more pranks at the Kuala Lumpur airport a few days before Kim was attacked.

He said that Hong identified Kim to Aisyah at the airport and allegedly put the poison on her hand.

The second woman, Huong, 29, was caught on airport security surveillance camera wearing a white jumper emblazoned with big black letters "LOL" - an acronym for laughing out loud.

Security cameras apparently showed her lunging at Kim Jong Nam from behind in a crowded airport terminal.

Kim Jong Nam, who was 45 or 46, died while en route to a hospital after he fell ill at a budget terminal of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport while waiting for a flight to Macao.

He told medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray that Malaysian officials later identified as the deadly VX nerve agent.

The two women are the only suspects in custody in a killing that South Korea's spy agency said was part of a five-year plot by Kim Jong Un to kill a brother he reportedly never met.

Four North Korean suspects fled the country, police say.

North Korea has a long history of ordering killings of people it views as threats to its regime.

While Kim Jong Nam was not thought to be seeking influence, his position as eldest son of the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding could have made him appear to be a danger.

He had also spoken out publicly against his family's dynastic control of the reclusive, nuclear-armed nation.

But North Korea has refused to accept the dead man was leader Kim Jong Un's half brother and has suggested the victim died of a heart attack.

It has accused Malaysia of working with South Korean and other "hostile forces" in blaming Pyongyang.

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