In the second week of their trial in Malaysia, two foreign nationals, Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, suspected of traveling to Malaysia to assassinate Kim Jong-nam, brother of the North Korean leader, had help who got away, it has been revealed.
A police officer testified Thursday that the two women on trial for the murder of the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader were seen on airport security videos with two men believed to have provided the VX nerve agent used to kill him.
Kim Jong-nam, 45, eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and half-brother of current leader, Kim Jong-Un was killed by assassins with suspected poison at Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb 13, 2017.
The women on trial at Malaysia’s Shah Alam High Court, habe been accused of smearing Kim Jong Nam’s face with the banned VX nerve agent at a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur, killing him within about 20 minutes.
The suspects have built their defense around their claim that they thought they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera show.
So far, 25-year-old Indonasian Siti Aisyah and 28-year-old Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam are the only suspects in custody in a killing that South Korea’s spy agency said was part of a five-year plot by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to kill a brother he reportedly never met.
Kim Jong-nam, eldest brother of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, was killed when the two female suspects on trial walked up and rubbed poison on his face at Kuala Lumpur airport, Feb 13
Malaysian authorities say several North Koreans suspected of involvement left the country on the day of the attack and others were allowed to leave later in a diplomatic deal with Pyongyang.
The prosecution presented video footage showing Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong walking in the airport with a man wearing a baseball cap. Separately, Indonesian suspect Siti Aisyah was seen meeting with another man also wearing a cap at an airport cafe just before the attack was carried out in a crowded departure terminal of the Kuala Lumpur airport the morning of Feb. 13. However, the faces of the men can’t be seen clearly.
Chief investigating officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz identified the men as only Mr. Y and Mr. Chang.
He testified the two men were believed to have smeared VX on the women’s hands before the pair smeared the oily substance on Kim Jong Nam’s face.
Wan Azirul said the two men are among four people at large whom prosecutors accuse of having the common intention with the two women to murder Kim.
He named the two other at-large suspects as James, the suspected recruiter of Aisyah, and Hanamori, who is nicknamed grandpa or uncle and who is suspected of giving directions to Mr. Y.
No further details about those four suspects were disclosed in open court, though police have previously said at least seven North Koreans who have left Malaysia are suspected of involvement.
Huong and Aisyah are the only two suspects detained in the brazen assassination of Kim, an outcast from North Korea’s ruling family who lived abroad in virtual exile for years. Both women have pleaded not guilty to murder charges that carry mandatory death sentences if they are convicted.
Attorneys representing the two female suspects have said Huong and Aisyah were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a TV show.
Prosecutors however, contend the women knew they were handling poison.
Siti Aisyah [left], and Doan Thi Huong [right], have attracted heavy security presence during their court appearances
Security videos showing events at the point the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader was attacked at a Malaysian airport and the two suspects hurrying away afterward were presented at their murder trial Wednesday.
Kim Jong Nam was seen arriving at the departure hall of the Kuala Lumpur international airport the morning of Feb. 13 and moving to a check-in area. A woman identified in court as Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong approaches Kim at the check-in counter and clasps both hands on his face from behind.
Police officer Wan Azirul testified that the second suspect, Siti Aisyah, can’t be seen attacking Kim, but he identified her as a person seen in the video running off in a different direction.
Wan Azirul testified that Huong appeared “aggressive” and didn’t apologize to Kim like she did to another person she approached in a similar manner two days earlier, in what police described as a practice run for the VX attack on Kim.
Both women can be seen hurrying to separate restrooms, holding their hands away from their bodies as if to avoid contact. Wan Azirul pointed out the suspect’s hands were back in normal positions once they emerged from the restrooms.
Experts have testified that VX can be safely removed by careful hand-washing within 15 minutes of exposure.
They then went to the taxi stand, where they got into a vehicle to leave.
In contrast to the defense claim that their clients were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a TV show, Wan Azirul said: “She [Huong], seemed to be anxious. From my observation, Doan has been informed and knew what needed to be done. Even though she seemed to be in panic, she knew what to do,” wan Azirul told the court.
Addressing reporters earlier Aisyah’s lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, said she was recruited in early January by a North Korean man known just as James to star in what he said were video prank shows.
James had Aisyah go to malls, hotels and airports and rub oil or pepper sauce on strangers which he would film on his phone, and paying Aisyah between $100 and $200 for each prank, Seng said.
James later introduced Aisyah to a man called Chang, who said he was the producer of Chinese video prank shows. On the day of Kim’s death, Chang had pointed Kim out to Aisyah as the next target and put the substance in her hand, the lawyer has said.
Police say Chang was actually Hong Song Hac, one of four North Korean suspects who left Malaysia on the day of the killing, while James was Ri Ji U, one of another three North Koreans who hid inside their country’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur to avoid questioning. Those three were later allowed to fly home in exchange for nine Malaysians being allowed to leave Pyongyang in a deal easing a diplomatic standoff that brought relations between the two countries to historic lows.
Malaysia never directly accused North Korea, but South Korea’s spy agency has said the attack was part of a five-year plot by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to kill a brother he reportedly never met. Kim Jong Nam was not thought to be seeking influence over his younger brother but had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic rule.
The trial will resume on Oct. 24 with a visit to the airport crime scene.
Huong and Aisyah have pleaded not guilty to murder charges that carry a mandatory death sentence if they are convicted.