Two women, accused of assassinating the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, entered a plea of "not guilty" in a Malaysian murder trial.

Gooi Soon Seng (L), a lawyer for Indonesian defendant Siti Aisyah, walks out during a break in the trial of Aisyah and Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong at the Shah Alam High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur on October 2, 2017, for their alleged role in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam. (AFP)
Gooi Soon Seng (L), a lawyer for Indonesian defendant Siti Aisyah, walks out during a break in the trial of Aisyah and Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong at the Shah Alam High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur on October 2, 2017, for their alleged role in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam. (AFP) (AFP)

Two women accused of assassinating the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with a banned nerve agent pleaded not guilty at the start of a high-profile murder trial in a Malaysian court on Monday.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, a Vietnamese, are charged with killing Kim Jong-nam by smearing his face with VX, a chemical poison banned by the UN, at Kuala Lumpur's international airport on February 13.

The prosecution said in its charge sheet their actions showed "intent to kill the victim" by smearing his face and eyes with VX nerve agent, which a post-mortem confirmed had killed Kim.

The defendants – who face  death by hanging if convicted –  claim they were duped into believing they were taking part in a prank for a reality TV show.

The murder charge was read to them in their native languages and interpreters indicated they were pleading not guilty.

The two women nodded their heads when the charge was read out to them.

The women were led into the heavily guarded High Court in Shah Alam, outside the capital Kuala Lumpur, in handcuffs for the start of the trial.

'Intent to kill'

Police have also named four North Koreans as suspects in the case and an Interpol red notice, an international alert just short of an arrest warrant, has been issued for the North Koreans, who remain at large.

The four North Koreans helped the accused women carry out several practice runs in Kuala Lumpur shopping malls, prosecutors said

"The prank practice carried out by the first and second accused with the supervision of the four who are still at large was preparation to see through their common intention to kill the victim," the prosecution said in its charge sheet.

Defence lawyers demanded that the prosecution immediately name the four other suspects, who have also been charged, so they could prepare their case.

"The charge must be clear," said Siti Aisyah's lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng.

Judge Azmi Ariffin dismissed their request.

Kim died soon after the attack

Juliana Idris, who works at the airport, told the court a man later identified as Kim Jong-nam approached her and asked her to take him to a police station.

Kim later went to the airport clinic but died there within 20 minutes.

She said the man, who spoke English, told her he had been "attacked by a woman from behind ... another one closed his eyes."

"His hands were shaking a bit, I don't know why," she said.

Police Lance Corporal Mohd Zulkarnain Sanudin, who was on duty at the Kuala Lumpur International airport on the day of the killing, said Idris had brought Kim Jong-nam to him.

He said Kim told him a substance had been wiped on his face. Kim's eyes were red and he could see some liquid on his face, Zulkarnain said.

He also said the he had wrongly recorded Kim Jong-nam's nationality as South Korean.

"The police report I made showed the nationality as South Korean, while on the passport, it was written DPR Korea, whereby I did not know what DPR meant. I was only sure that Korea was South Korea," he told the court.

Diplomatic standoff

The murder sparked an angry row between North Korea, which was accused of masterminding the killing of Kim Jong-un's estranged relative, and Malaysia, historically one of Pyongyang's few allies.

Pyongyang denies the allegations.

Kim, who was 45 or 46, was the eldest son of the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding, yet he reportedly fell out of favour in 2001 when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland. 

He had been living abroad for years and at the time of his death was traveling on a North Korean diplomatic passport under the name "Kim Chol."

DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic Republic of North Korea. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies