Kim Jong-nam was carrying antidote to nerve agent when assassinated in Kuala Lumpur, court hears
Kim Jong-nam, who was living in exile in Macau, had criticised his family’s dynastic rule of North Korea and his brother had issued a standing order for his execution
Kim Jong-nam, the murdered half-brother of North Korea’s leader, had a dozen vials of antidote for lethal nerve agent VX in his bag on the day he was poisoned, a Malaysian court was told this week.
Two women, Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese, are charged with conspiring with four North Korean fugitives in the murder, making use of banned chemical weapon VX at the Kuala Lumpur international airport on February 13.
The vials contained atropine, an antidote for poisons such as VX and insecticides, toxicologist Dr K. Sharmilah told the court on Wednesday, state news agency Bernama said.
However, when cross-examined by Siti Aisyah’s lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, she said she did not know if the vials were marked in Korean.
Kim, the eldest son of the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding, had been living abroad for years after falling out of favour, and had criticised his family’s dynastic reign.
It is thought that he could have been seen as a threat to his brother, leader Kim Jong-un, who, according to some South Korean lawmakers, had issued a standing order for his execution.
Siti Aisyah and Huong, both in their 20s, are accused of carrying out the hit as Kim Jong-nam waited to board a flight to Macau.
Airport security camera footage showed him being approached by two women, who appeared to smear something on his face. Kim could be seen gesturing for help before suffering seizures.
He died soon after he came into contact with the women.
A government chemist testified that VX – so deadly it is classified by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction – was a “strategic” choice of poison because it doesn’t evaporate quickly and a victim could be targeted without affecting the surroundings.
The chemist told the court that rubbing VX on a person’s eye would be the fastest way to kill because the eyes have no barrier like the skin. He said the palm is the least sensitive area and VX can be washed from the hand within 15 minutes of exposure, which could explain why the women were not affected.
Prosecutors contend the women knew they were handling poison and deliberately rushed to wash their hands after the attack. Security camera footage shows both holding their hands away from their bodies as they rush to separate restrooms.
But defence lawyers say Siti Aisyah and Huong – arrested in Kuala Lumpur within days of the killing – were duped into thinking they were playing a prank for a reality television show and did not know they were poisoning Kim Jong-nam.
Police have told the court that several North Korean men helped plot the attack, including a man one of the women says hired her to stage pranks. The four men left Malaysia on the day of the killing.
A police investigator identified the four as Hong Song-hac, Ri Ji-hyon, Ri Jae-nam and O Jong-gil. On Malaysia’s request, Interpol has issued arrest warrant for the men, who are believed to be back in Pyongyang, but North Korea is not a member of the organisation.
Airport security footage played in the courtroom showed all four discarding their belongings and changing their outfits after the attack. They were then seen meeting North Korean embassy official Hyong Kwang Song and Air Koryo official Kim Uk-il in another part of the airport before flying out of the country.
North Korea has denied accusations by South Korean and US officials that Kim Jong-un’s regime was behind the killing.
Later, Malaysia was forced to return Kim Jong-nam’s body in exchange for the release of nine Malaysians barred from leaving Pyongyang.
At the time of his murder, Kim was carrying four diplomatic passports that identified him as Kim Chol, aged 46. Police also testified that Kim was carrying eight international currencies, including US$124,000.
The court hearings, which have run more than a month, are to resume on January 22.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters