Sending home N Korean compromises Jong Nam trial, says lawyer


PETALING JAYA: The lawyer for one of the two women accused of murdering North Korean Kim Jong Nam says the case has been potentially compromised as the person believed to have recruited his client had been allowed to leave the country, AP news agency reported.

It said the lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, says his client, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, claims the evidence of the North Korean was essential to prove she was duped into carrying out a “prank” which resulted in the death of Jong Nam.

Malaysia had allowed North Koreans to leave the country after the reclusive country refused to allow nine Malaysians at its embassy in Pyongyang to leave.

Malaysian police had said the deal with North Korea did not affect their investigation into the killing.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is believed to have ordered the killing of his half-brother Jong Nam. Four North Koreans seen in airport CCTV footage with the women are believed to have fled the country immediately.

Siti Aisyah, 25, and a Vietnamese, Doan Thi Huong, 28, have been charged with killing Jong Nam at the KL International Airport 2 on Feb 13. They are believed to have used a nerve agent to cover his face.

Jong Nam had sought help at the airport counter and was taken to a clinic at the airport. He later died on the way to hospital.

The lawyer told AP he was afraid his client will become a scapegoat.

Gooi said the evidence of the North Korean suspect was important to “show how this naive girl was duped into doing things outside her knowledge”.

One of the men identified by police is Ri Ji U, known by his nickname James, was believed to have been holed up at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Gooi said James was key to Aisyah’s defence as he had recruited Aisyah in early January to star in his “video prank shows”.

Over the course of several days, he had her rub oil or pepper sauce on a victim’s face, “from forehead downwards”, which he would film on his phone, the lawyer told AP.

They practised at malls, hotels and airports, Gooi said, speaking ahead of a court appearance by the two women tomorrow when the case is expected to be moved to a higher court for trial.

Gooi told the news agency Aisyah was paid US$100-US$200 (RM440 to RM880) for each prank and hoped the income would allow her to stop working as a social escort, Gooi said.

The lawyer said Aisyah was quite excited at being quite well paid for each prank and she was telling her friends that she didn’t want to live the life of a social escort any more.

Gooi said that in January, Aisyah flew to Cambodia, where James introduced her to a man known as Chang to produce video prank shows for the China market.

The lawyer said Aisyah did three pranks at the airport in Phnom Penh. He said Chang was later identified by Aisyah as Hong Song Hac, one of four North Korean suspects who fled Malaysia the same day Jong Nam was killed.

He said Aisyah met Hong at the klia2 on the day of the killing to do more pranks, and that Hong identified Jong Nam to Aisyah and allegedly put the poison on her hand.

Gooi said the real culprit had escaped and the women had become the scapegoats. Allowing James to go back had compromised the defence case and “constitutes a miscarriage of justice”, he added.

An Interpol red alert notice has been issued for the four North Korean suspects, including Hong.