Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, met his end after an encounter with two women at a Malaysian airport in February.
These women, Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, are currently on trial for his murder. The courtroom has heard details over the past weeks of an elaborate plot to kill the man, involving false passports, nerve poisons, reality TV and a mysterious man nicknamed “Grandpa.”
The basic facts of the case are clear: Kim Jong Nam was waiting for a flight at the airport in Kuala Lumpur. He was approached one at a time by two young women, each of whom smeared something on his face. He died a short time later, after experiencing seizures and being taken to the airport’s medical clinic.
He was dead by the time he got to the hospital.
The women are pleading not guilty, saying that they thought they were acting in a reality television prank show.
Witnesses said that they found Kim Jong Nam was poisoned using the deadly nerve agent VX – a substance banned by the UN. Traces of the poison were found on the women’s clothes, and a degraded version under Huong’s fingernails, a chemical weapons expert told the court.
The court has been looking at how exactly the poison got to Kim.
Fake names and reality TV
Four men, known only as Mr. Chang, Mr. Y., James and Hanamori (sometimes also called “Uncle” or “Grandpa”) were involved in the murder, according to an investigating police officer, Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz.
The officer identified Mr. Y as a man seen in a video recording played in court. The man, wearing a black cap and carrying a black backpack, was seen in the video walking into the airport with a woman who resembled the accused, Huong.
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“Based on my investigation, Mr. Y was the person who applied a liquid on the second accused,” Wan Azirul said, referring to Huong.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chang was seen meeting with Siti Aisyah at a restaurant at the airport’s third-level departure hall in a separate video screened in court, Wan Azirul said.
Hanamori had given instructions to Mr. Y, while James had “recruited” Siti Aisyah, Wan Azirul said, without elaborating.
The lawyer for Sisi Aisyah, Gooi Song Seng, has said that his client didn’t know she had poison on her hands. She was recruited by a North Korean man – known to her as “James” – to star in what he said were video prank shows, said the lawyer.
Over the course of several days, James had Aisyah practice rubbing oil or pepper sauce on people at shopping malls, hotels and airports, supposedly to be included in a Chinese reality TV show, said Gooi. Chang told her he was the show’s producer and pointed to Kim as the next “victim.”
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Hisyam Teh, Huong’s lawyer, argued during cross-examination that Huong could not have known that she was handling VX.
“No sane person, having been made aware that a liquid was VX, basically the deadliest of all nerve agents, would put out his hand for VX to get administered,” he added.
A chemical weapons expert told the court that VX would act more quickly when applied to the face than to the palms. If someone washed their hands in time, they might not be poisoned, he said. “If you decontaminate within 15 minutes, most likely no effect or delayed effect (from VX).”
Kim Jong Nam was apparently holding $100,000 in cash in his backpack at the time of his death, a police officer investigating the case told the court.
And, he was travelling on a South Korean passport under the name “Kim Chol.”
Kim Jong Nam had lived for years outside of North Korea, after falling out of favour with his ruling relatives. He was the eldest son of the Kim family and was known to occasionally criticize the regime.
-With files from Reuters