Indonesian national Siti Aisyah (L, face down) is escorted by Malaysian police after a court appearance with Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (not pictured) at the magistrates' court in Sepang on April 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)

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  28 July 2017 09:28

Two women accused of the Cold War-style assassination of the half-brother of North Korea's leader in Malaysia are expected to plead not guilty to the murder in court Friday. 

Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong arrived at a heavily guarded court just outside the capital Kuala Lumpur, wearing bullet-proof vests, and were led inside ahead of the hearing.

The women, both in their 20s, are accused of rubbing banned VX nerve agent in the face of Kim Jong-Nam as he waited to board a plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February.

The women, who face the death penalty if convicted, say they were duped into believing they were taking part in a reality TV show.

Seoul accuses North Korea of being behind the murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's estranged relative, a charge Pyongyang denies.

About 200 police officers were deployed outside the High Court in Sham Alam for the high-profile case, including armed officers. 

It will be the women's first appearance at the High Court. They are expected to enter pleas and then the judge may set a date for the start of the trial. 

The murder — which took place as Kim Jong-Nam was about to board a flight to Macau — sparked a serious diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea, with Kuala Lumpur expelling the North's ambassador and Pyongyang banning Malaysians from leaving the country.

Tensions eased when Malaysia agreed to the return of Kim body to Pyongyang. Under the terms of that agreement, nine Malaysians prevented from leaving Pyongyang were freed and three North Koreans in Malaysia were allowed to go home.

Police are still trying to trace four North Koreans suspected of having taken part in the murder plot but who are believed to have returned to their capital immediately after the killing.

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