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Kim Jong-nam

Lawyers for women accused of killing Kim Jong-nam claim trial compromised because Malaysia let North Korean suspects flee

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 12:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 April, 2017, 10:50pm

Lawyers for two women charged with the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, complained Thursday their defence has been compromised by Malaysian authorities allowing three North Korean suspects to leave the country.

During pre-trial proceedings at the Sepang Magistrate Court, the lawyers for Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, also said the prosecution had denied requests for copies of statements by the three North Koreans that police recorded just before they were allowed to leave Malaysia on March 30.

Since the three have left the country, “we believe they will not be called as prosecution witness and will not be made available to the defence,” Aisyah’s lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, said.

Those three people are Hyon Kwang-song, 44, the second secretary at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur; Air Koryo employee Kim Uk-il, 37; and 30-year-old Ri Ji-u, alias James.

Doan’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik also requested their statements, along with photographs and recordings that Doan took on her two mobile phones, which police confiscated as potential evidence.

The prosecution said police could not supply the statements as they are not “public documents and police are not obliged to supply them.”

According to a source close to the case, James appears in a short video recording Aisyah captured with her mobile phone.

He had purportedly posed as a Japanese when first introduced to Aisyah in early January, and said he was looking for talent for a television prank show.

Watch: raw video shows moment of Kim Jong-nam’s attack

James made Aisyah act out the “prank” of smearing strangers with lotion, oil and even Tabasco sauce on one occasion, at various locations like malls, a hotel and even the airport before February 13, when Kim Jong-nam, 45, was murdered there.

Each time Aisyah, who worked as a masseur in a spa in a downtown Kuala Lumpur hotel, was paid about $100.

Doan too claims to have been lured to believe that she was merely acting in a television prank show.

Gooi has asked police to obtain and supply them with security camera recordings from the venues where Aisyah claimed to have acted out the “pranks.”

The two women were initially charged on March 1 with having “common intention” with four other North Koreans still at large, to kill Kim Jong-nam at the departure hall of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport budget airline terminal on February 13.

Police said the two women smeared the victim’s face with the highly lethal VX nerve agent.

Four of the eight North Koreans whom police identified with links to the murder fled the country just hours after the killing.

Another North Korean was detained but later deported after police did not find enough evidence to charge him.

The remaining three sought refuge at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

A diplomatic row between the Malaysia and North Korean governments erupted after Malaysia expelled the North Korean ambassador and North Korea retaliated by holding three staff of the Malaysian embassy in Pyongyang and six family members hostage.

In late March, Malaysian police were allowed to enter the North Korean embassy to interview the three holed up there, and in what was seen as a trade-off, Kim Jong-nam’s body and those three North Koreans were flown to Pyongyang, while North Korea released the nine Malaysians.

Doan’s cousin Tran Hux Hoang, 22, who arrived in Malaysia with her father Doan Van Tanh on Monday, told reporters that the father and daughter met on Wednesday at the women’s prison in Kajang in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, for the first time since she was arrested on Feb. 15 while trying to return to Vietnam.

“She is confident she did not do anything wrong. She is innocent,” Tran said.

“They are just scapegoats,” Gooi said of the two defendants, as the real brain behind the murder had fled.

The magistrate court has deferred the pre-trial hearing to May 30 after the prosecution said they needed time to prepare before applying for the case to be heard in the High Court.