One of two women on trial for the Cold War-style murder of the North Korean leader’s estranged half-brother met with an alleged North Korean agent a month before the assassination, a court heard Tuesday.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah’s defence lawyer said his client was introduced to a man known as “James” — later identified in court as Ri Ji-U — on January 5 last year at a shopping centre in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.
Defence lawyers have maintained that the women were recruited to take part in what they thought was a prank TV show but were instead part of an elaborate plot by a group of North Korean agents to get two women to act as inadvertent assassins.
Siti and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong are on trial for the killing of Kim Jong-Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13 last year.
They allegedly rubbed VX nerve agent on Kim’s face as he waited for a flight to Macau. He died in agony within minutes and the women were arrested days later.
The pair face death by hanging if convicted of murder. Both have pleaded not guilty, with their lawyers saying blame for the murder should lie with the North Korean agents.
During questioning of an investigating police officer defence lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng said Siti was approached by a taxi driver at a nightclub before dawn on January 5 last year.
The cabbie asked her to meet at a shopping mall where there would be an offer for her to take part in prank acting.
The investigator did not confirm the date but agreed with the account and that it was at the shopping mall where Siti first met with Ri, the alleged North Korean agent.
News reports had previously mentioned Ri as the youngest of eight North Korean men previously wanted by the Malaysian police for suspected involvement in the killing.
Gooi told AFP after the hearing that Ri was merely known for recruiting Siti in January and that he was “no longer in the scene” in February when Kim was assassinated.
Malaysian police had previously said that four North Korean suspects fled the country on the day that Kim was attacked at Kuala Lumpur’s airport.
The trial at the Malaysian High Court resumed this month after a seven-week break.
On Monday, a witness told the court that Kim met an unidentified American on the Malaysian resort island of Langkawi on February 9, four days before his death.
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported in May last year that the American was a US intelligence agent and that Kim was believed to have passed information to him.
A police computer forensics report showed that a laptop owned by Kim was last used on February 9, the day of the Langkawi meeting and that a USB pen drive had been connected to it that day.