A police investigator testified Tuesday that the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader told a friend in Malaysia that his life was in danger six months before he was killed at an airport.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam have been charged with murdering Kim Jong Nam by applying the banned VX nerve agent to his face in a crowded Kuala Lumpur airport terminal on Feb. 13 last year. They allegedly conspired with four North Korean men who fled Malaysia the same day.
Chief police investigator Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz told the court that Kim’s friend provided a driver for him during his trip to Kuala Lumpur last year after Kim told him that “my life is in danger” and “I am scared for my life” six months before he was killed. He didn’t say why Kim feared for his life.
If they are convicted, the two women could face the death penalty, but not if they lacked intent to kill. Defense lawyers say the women believed they were playing a prank for a hidden-camera TV show and had previously been paid to conduct similar pranks. Prosecutors contend the women knew they were handling poison.
Aisyah’s lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, also asked the policeman if Hong Song Hac, one of four suspects believed to have fled back to North Korea, was an official with the North Korean Embassy in Indonesia at the time. Wan Azirul initially said he didn’t know but then agreed when shown a document provided by the Indonesian foreign ministry.
Gooi told reporters later that police had failed to investigate the background of the four other suspects. He said the involvement of another North Korean Embassy official reinforced the belief that the embassy and its government were involved in the plot.
The court heard earlier that a North Korean Embassy official in Kuala Lumpur met with the four suspects at the airport before they left and helped them to check in. The court was also told that a car used to take the suspects to the airport was bought by the embassy in the name of one of its citizens just months earlier.
Kim, the eldest son in the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding, had lived abroad for years after falling out of favor. It is thought he could have been seen as a threat to the rule of his half brother, Kim Jong Un.
Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea of involvement in Kim’s death and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.
The trial is to resume March 14.