SHAH ALAM, Malaysia | Key ruling due for women on trial in Kim Jong Nam killing

SHAH ALAM, Malaysia — Two Southeast Asian women on trial for the brazen assassination of the North Korean leader’s half brother arrived at a Malaysian court Thursday to hear a judge’s decision on whether to call them to enter their defense or acquit them of murder.

A defense phase of the trial could take several more months. If they are acquitted, they may not be freed right away as prosecutors could appeal as well as push forward with separate charges for overstaying their visas.

Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnam’s Doan Thi Huong, 29, are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a hidden-camera show.

During the six-month trial, prosecutors have laid out a murder plot involving four suspected North Korean government agents who recruited and trained the two women and provided them with the VX used to kill Kim. All four fled the country the same morning Kim was killed.

The two young Southeast Asian women are the only suspects in custody and face the death penalty if convicted.

Airport security footage shown in court captured the moment of the attack and prosecutors said linked the women to the other suspects. Shortly after Kim arrived at the airport, Huong was seen approaching him, clasping her hands on his face from behind and then fleeing. Another blurred figure was also seen running away from Kim and a police investigator testified that it was Aisyah.

Kim died within two hours of the attack.

Lawyers for the two women have said their clients were pawns in a politically motivated killing with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

They say the prosecution failed to show the two women had any intention to kill — key to establishing the women are guilty of murder.

The real culprits, the defense argues, are the four North Korean suspects.

Pyongyang has denied accusations it was behind the killing. Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.

By EILEEN NG , Associated Press