Not every lawyer would want to have the North Korean government as a client. But Malaysian lawyer Jagjit Singh had no qualms when the North Korean embassy enlisted his help after Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother was assassinated in early 2017.
Speaking to VICE News in a rare interview, Singh explains that he's just doing his job: “I don't see why I can't provide them the best possible defense I can provide. They're entitled to it.”
Kim Jong Nam died shortly after his face was smeared with a nerve agent known as VX when he was walking in the busy Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia in mid-February 2017. When the police detained a North Korean national for questioning, the embassy called Singh.
The man was eventually released, and with all other suspects having fled the country, there are no North Koreans on trial for Kim Jong Nam’s death.
Instead, two women, Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese citizen Doan Thi Huong, are facing trial for the murder.
Their defense lawyers argue that their clients are scapegoats for a political assassination, claiming that they were groomed by North Korean operatives to perform what they thought was a prank for a TV show. The North Korean regime has been known to get rid of its enemies, sometimes in gruesome ways.
Gooi Soon Seng, Aisyah’s defense attorney, went so far as to say that the murder amounted to a “declaration of war” since it used chemical weapons, and that the government wasn’t addressing the true seriousness of the crime.
“The issue is that chemical warfare has been used in your country to attack somebody, and that is the larger issue, which they should be more interested to find out,” Gooi told VICE News.
The fate of the two women will potentially be decided on August 10, when a judge will announce whether the defense will be called, or whether the women will walk free.
This segment originally aired June 28, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.