Jong-nam murder suspect hired for multiple pranks; paid almost US$1,000

February 9, 2018 @ 6:59PM
By AFP

SHAH ALAM: An Indonesian woman charged with the killing of the North Korean leader's half-brother was paid by a suspected Pyongyang agent to take part in multiple "pranks" just weeks before the murder, a court heard Friday.

Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong are on trial for the Cold War-style assassination of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13 last year while he was waiting for a flight to Macau.

Defence lawyers have argued that the women were recruited to take part in what they thought were prank TV shows but were instead tricked into becoming inadvertent assassins, in an elaborate plot by a group of North Korean agents.

"The significance of today's evidence is we are telling the court how this girl was tricked into doing pranks and persuaded to go to the airport on Feb 13," defence lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told reporters after presenting witnesses and text messages at the hearing.

The pair allegedly smeared Kim's face with the banned nerve agent VX, killing him within minutes. The women were arrested days later.

Kim was the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He had been living in exile since a family fallout.

At the resumption of the trial Friday, investigating officer Wan Azirul Nizam said Siti had told police she was offered money by Ri Ji-u, a North Korean posing as a Japanese man named "James", to carry out several pranks.

News reports have described Ri as the youngest of eight North Korean men previously wanted by the Malaysian police for suspected involvement in the killing.

Gooi, who is representing Siti, told the court that her client was promised the opportunity to travel to Japan and the United States if her acting was realistic.

Gooi said multiple pranks were acted out in the weeks prior to Kim's assassination in shopping malls, hotels and the airport, without giving details on the nature of the pranks. She was paid almost US$1,000 for participating.

"I put it to you that James had asked Siti to take part in three pranks," Gooi asked of the investigator, who answered in the affirmative.

The lawyer told the court that Siti had uploaded on her Facebook page a video of "James" after playing a prank at the airport on the morning of Jan 6 last year.

"Hopefully, I will be able to go to Japan next month, good job," Siti had posted on her page, according to Gooi.

The lawyer said the Facebook post and text messages to "James" proved her client really believed she was taking part in a prank TV show.

He provided the court a text message from Siti to "James" on Jan 15 last year, which read: "I see today, I acting no good, right?"

Her acting was "not natural," the North Korean replied in another text message.

Both Siti and Huong face death by hanging if convicted for murder. Both have pleaded not guilty.

But Malaysian police say the two women had been trained to carry out the assassination since they immediately headed to the toilet to wash their hands after attacking Kim. – AFP

Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong are on trial for the Cold War-style assassination of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13 last year while he was waiting for a flight to Macau. (NSTP/ROSLIN MAT TAHIR)ROSLIN MAT TAHIR