SHAH ALAM, Malaysia (AP) — A police officer testified Monday at the trial of two women accused of killing the half brother of North Korea’s leader that four suspects at large believed to have plotted with the women were North Koreans who fled Malaysia immediately after the assassination.
Police investigating officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz also said an employee from North Korea’s state-owned carrier, Air Koryo, arranged flight tickets for the four men so they could depart after the attack on Kim Jong Nam was carried out in a crowded budget terminal of the Kuala Lumpur airport last Feb. 13.
Wan Azirul, who earlier identified the four only as Mr. Y, Mr. Chang, Hanamori and James, revealed their full identifies as the trial entered a second month.
The two young women — Siti Aisyah of Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who are accused of smearing VX nerve agent onto Kim’s face — are the only suspects detained in the brazen assassination of Kim, an outcast from North Korea’s ruling family who lived abroad in virtual exile for years. Both women pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial on Oct. 2 to murder charges that carry mandatory death sentences if they are convicted.
Wan Azirul testified Monday that Hanamori, whom he earlier identified as the mastermind of the attack, is Ri Jae Nam, 57, and that Mr. Chang, who was seen in airport security video with Aisyah before the killing, is Hong Song Hak, 34.
Mr. Y, seen in the video with Huong, is Ri Ji Hyon, 33, and the fourth suspect, James, is O Jong Gil, 54, Wan Azirul said.
He said the four men entered Malaysia on different days beginning last Jan. 31.
Interpol put out a red alert for the arrest of the four in March following a request from Malaysian police.
Wan Azirul said three of the men flew off to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, more than three hours after the attack on Kim, but couldn’t remember where the fourth suspect flew to. Police earlier said the four are believed to be back in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang.
Wan Azirul said police found a photo of another North Korean, Ri Ji U, 30, also known as James, in Aisyah’s cellphone. But there was no record of this person entering or exiting Malaysia, he told the court.
Earlier in the trial, the court was shown airport security video of the four suspects at large. O Jong Gil was seen checking in at an airport hotel two days before the attack. After the attack, O checked out and was seen at the main airport terminal more than three hours after the other three left on the same flight.
On Monday, Wan Azirul pointed out in the video a North Korean Embassy official and the Air Koryo employee meeting with the four men before they left.
The two women’s defense lawyers have said Huong and Aisyah were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a TV show. Prosecutors contend the women’s conduct showed they knew they were handling poison.
Malaysia has never directly accused North Korea, but South Korea’s spy agency has claimed the attack was part of a plot by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to kill a brother he reportedly never met. Kim Jong Nam was not known to have actively been seeking influence over his younger brother, but had years earlier spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic rule. •
By EILEEN NG, Associated Press