The two female suspects in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, have been charged with murder at a magistrate court in Malaysia on Wednesday (1 March).

If convicted, the duo could face a maximum punishment of the death penalty.

Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, and Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, were brought to the isolated court building, located on outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, under heavy security. This is the first time the two women, thought to be female assassins employed by the North Korean regime, were seen in public since the murder on 13 February.

The duo, who looked tired and weary, were charged with "common intention to murder" by the Sepang magistrate court, which is located close to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where the assassination took place.

The charges read: "That you, with four others who are still at large, on Feb 13, 2017 at about 9am, at the Departure Hall, Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2, Sepang, in the district of Sepang, in the state of Selangor Darul Ehsan, to further your shared intention, murdered Kim Chol, and therefore you have committed an offence that is punishable under Section 302 of the Penal Code to be read with Section 34 of the same code."

The charges were read back to the suspects through interpreters in their respective native languages. No plea was recorded and the entire trial is expected to go on for some more time.

The lawyers representing the two suspects have asked for a restrain order to stop those involved in the incident – police or witnesses – from making statements in public. The next hearing is expected to be in early April, following which the case is likely to be taken up by higher courts.

The two women smeared a substance, which was later found to be the deadly VX nerve agent, on Kim's face at the airport. He was dead en route to the hospital.

The high-profile murder has set off a series of international drama. Another North Korean named Ri Jong-chol has also been arrested while the Malaysian police are hunting for at least three more suspects.