Kim Jong-nam murder suspect thought she was part of a TV prank, police say
Police chief said 25-year-old suspect was not aware that it was an assassination attempt
The Indonesian woman arrested for suspected involvement in the killing of the North Korean leader’s half brother in Malaysia was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank, Indonesia’s national police chief said on Friday, citing information received from Malaysian authorities.
Tito Karnavian told reporters in Indonesia’s Aceh province that Siti Aisyah, 25, was paid to be involved in Just For Laughs style pranks, a reference to a popular hidden camera show.
He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water.
“Such an action was done three or four times and they were given a few dollars for it, and with the last target, Kim Jong-nam, allegedly there were dangerous materials in the sprayer,” Karnavian said.
“She was not aware that it was an assassination attempt by alleged foreign agents,” he said.
Karnavian’s comments come after a male relative of Aisyah said in an Indonesian television interview that she had been hired to perform in a short comedy movie and travelled to China as part of this work. Indonesian Immigration has said Aisyah travelled to Malaysia and other countries, which it did not specify.
South Korea has been quick to accuse its enemies in North Korea of dispatching a hit squad to kill Kim Jong-nam at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, saying two female assassins poisoned him and then fled in a taxi.
Although Kim Jong-nam is believed to have two sons and a daughter with two women living in Beijing and Macau, police in Malaysia say none has come forward to claim the body or provide DNA samples.
North Korean diplomats in Malaysia have requested custody of Kim Jong-nam’s body, arguing that he had a North Korean passport. The officials objected to an autopsy, but Malaysian authorities went ahead with the procedure anyway because they did not receive a formal complaint.
Investigators were still trying to piece together details of the case, and South Korea has not said how it concluded that North Korea was behind the killing.
Malaysian police were questioning three suspects – Aisyah, another women who carried a Vietnamese passport, and a man they said is Aisyah’s boyfriend – and waiting for autopsy results that could shed light on why Kim Jong-nam suddenly fell ill at the airport on Monday as he waited for a flight home to Macau.
Dizzy and in pain, he told medical workers at the airport he had been sprayed with a chemical. Within two hours, Malaysian officials said, he was dead.
Kim Jong-nam, who was 45 or 46, had lived in exile for years and was estranged from his younger half brother, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He reportedly fell out of favour in 2001, when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
Yoji Gomi, a Japanese journalist who wrote a book about Kim Jong-nam, said he criticised the family regime and believed a leader should be chosen “through a democratic process”.
Gomi said he met Kim Jong-nam by chance at Beijing’s international airport in 2004, leading to exchanges of 150 emails and two interviews in 2011 – one in Beijing and another in Macau – totalling seven hours.
Kim Jong-nam appeared nervous during the interview in Macau, Gomi said.
“He must have been aware of the danger, but I believe he still wanted to convey his views to Pyongyang via the media,” Gomi said. “He was sweating all over his body, and seemed very uncomfortable when he responded to my questions. He was probably worried about the impact of his comments and expressions. The thought now gives me a pain in my heart.”