https://www.rte.ie/news/player/world-report/2017/1126/ – radio report here
SHAH ALAM — More than a month into the murder trial in one of the most brazen, cunning and perplexing assassinations seen in a long time, defence lawyer Gooi Soon Seng was on the front foot.
“When was the first time you identified them, when was the first time you saw the CCTV footage?” Seng asked Wan Azirul, a police investigator and prosecution witness.
The lawyer was referring to 4 North Korean men seen on footage from Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13 this year. That morning, while waiting to board a flight to Macau, Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, was poisoned with VX, a chemical weapon.
The grainy security camera videos could be key to the case against the only two people standing trial in the case, which is being held in a small courtroom about 20 miles from the centre of Kuala Lumpur.
Two young female defendants: 26 year old Indonesian Siti Aisyah and and 29 year old Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese, face the hangman’s noose if found guilty of murdering Kim Jong Nam.
Other CCTV footage – broadcast worldwide in the days after the assassination- showed the two women separately approach the rotund 46 year old Kim. Aisyah and Huong appeared to rub their hands in his face, then turning tail — walking — then running — to airport bathrooms, where they washed their hands of whatever they smeared on their target.
But shortly after the two young women struck, Kim Chol — Kim Jong Nam’s passport name — was dead, slumped in ambulance taking him from the airport to a nearby hospital.
Lawyers for the accused say they were dupes in a North Korean plot and that they had no idea whose jowly visage they grappled that morning — much less that it was Kim Jong Un’s big brother.
Blackmailing Malaysia into releasing the Kim Jong Un’s corpse and North Korean suspects holed up at the country’ embassy in Kuala Lumpur, North Korea stopped Malaysian diplomats and their families from leaving North Korea after Kim Jong Nam’s death.
The hostage stand-off ended in late March when Malaysia released Kim’s corpse — dispatched to Pyongyang along with 3 more North Koreans. One of the 3 was an embassy official and another a worker with North Korea’s state airline Air Koryo: both had taken refuge in the embassy and both appeared on airport footage from February 13.
But whether or not the murder of Kim Jong Nam was “political,” as the defence insists, it was a sinister testament to that Pyongyang’s ability to target its enemies on foreign soil and a chilling indication that it had no qualms about using a deadly toxin in a crowded public place in a relatively-friendly country.
Aisyah and Huong’s foreknowledge of the assassination is unclear: they claim they thought were taking part in the latest round of made-for-TV pranks that they had spent the previous weeks rehearsing.
Weeks before the murder they said had been commissioned as actresses by mysterious new friends, who turned out to be among the North Koreans identified in the airport footage shown in court.
On February 13 Huong even wore a shirt emblazoned LOL, the letters a beacon on the footage that showed her approaching Kim.
Despite their predicament, both defendants appeared focused and engaged when entering the dock after lunch, listening intently as interpreters translated the exchanges between witnesses and lawyers.
Both women had scarves wrapped around their head and coming down over their faces — though defense lawyer Gooi could not say why when asked by media afterwards.
In the courtroom Huong was animated, hands awhirl as she bantered with lawyers while awaiting the return of the judge for the afternoon session.
Later, however, by the end of the day’s hearings, the women donned bullet-proof jackets, and, faces down from the TV cameras and paparazzi to their left, the were rushed from courtroom to police car by masked, heavily-armed police, to face another night in prison ahead of a return to court the following day.
For World Report this is Simon Roughneen in Shah Alam, MalaysiaShow