Kim Jong Nam murder trial

Four male suspects fled Malaysia hours after murder

Four previously unnamed male suspects in the murder trial of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, were identified in court yesterday as the hearing entered its 12th day.

North Koreans Hong Song Hac, 34, Ri Ji Hyon, 33, Ri Jae Nam, 57 and O Jong Gil, 55, had been captured on closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at the budget terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA2) on Feb 13, the day Mr Kim was killed.

The four, who remain at large, are charged together with two detained women - Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 29 - in the murder of Mr Kim.

The four men had been caught on camera talking to Siti and Doan before the women allegedly attacked Mr Kim by smearing lethal nerve agent VX on his face while he waited for his flight to Macau.

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said the prosecution has evidence that O was the one who recruited Siti to kill Mr Kim.

The women have pleaded not guilty, and have said they had been duped into believing they were playing a prank for a reality TV show.

Hong, Ri Jae Nam and Ri Ji Hyon immediately left Malaysia after the incident by boarding a flight to Jakarta, while O departed later in the evening to an unspecified destination.

Camera footage showedthat two of the suspects had changed their attire before getting on the flights.

Investigating officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz testified that the four suspects spoke to two other men - an Air Koryo manager and a North Korean embassy official - at the airport before they boarded their flights.

Police have recorded statements from the two men.

"They explained why they were there, which was to help every North Korean citizen boarding a flight to leave the country," said Mr Wan Azirul.

Two North Koreans were deported from Malaysia in March - Mr Kim Uk Il, an employee of Air Koryo, and Mr Hyon Kwan Song, the second secretary of the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The murder of Mr Kim Jong Nam sparked a diplomatic row between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang, in which Malaysia was forced to return Mr Kim's body and allow three North Korean men wanted for questioning to leave the country, in exchange for the release of nine Malaysians who were stranded in Pyongyang.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Four male suspects fled Malaysia hours after murder'. Print Edition | Subscribe