Kim Jong Nam murder trial: Witness says suspect paid to perform prank by North Korean man

Indonesian Siti Aisyah, who is detained in connection with the death of Kim Jong Nam, is escorted by Malaysian police officers as they leave the Shah Alam High Court on Jan 22. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SHAH ALAM - A police witness in the Malaysian murder trial of Kim Jong Nam has testified that Siti Aisyah, one of the two women accused of killing the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader, was paid to carry out pranks by a North Korean man named as a suspect in the murder investigations.

Mr Kim died on Feb 13, 2017, hours after a toxic nerve agent called VX was allegedly smeared on his face by Indonesian Siti, 26, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 29, while he was waiting for his flight to Macau at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport .

The two women had maintained that they thought they were taking part in a reality prank show when they approached Mr Kim at the airport. The women face the death penalty if convicted.

During Tuesday's (Jan 30) cross examination, police investigation officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz agreed with the defence lawyer that Siti was introduced by a taxi driver to a man known as James, or Ri Ji U.

James is a North Korean national who was named as a suspect by the police in February last year when they were investigating the murder. He was allowed to leave Malaysia in March after a tense diplomatic stand-off between Malaysia and North Korea.

Siti's lawyer Gooi Soon Seng also questioned Mr Wan Azirul about an intermediary called Kamaruddin Masiod, a taxi driver who introduced Siti to James.

"Kamaruddin had approached the accused on Jan 5, 2017 at Beach Club in KL (Kuala Lumpur) when the accused was waiting for a ride," Mr Gooi said.

The officer replied: "I agree that Kamaruddin approached the accused around 3.30am when picking up passengers but the date is unclear".

A photo produced in court showed the trio - Siti, James and Kamaruddin - at a mall together.

Mr Azirul agreed with Mr Gooi's statement that Mr Kamaruddin witnessed the accused practising pranks at the mall.

The officer also agreed with Mr Gooi that James paid Siti RM400 (S$135) for the practice session, and she gave RM100 to Mr Kamaruddin.

Four North Korean men who remain at large have also been charged with Mr Kim's murder. South Korean and US officials have suggested that Mr Kim was assasinated by North Korean agents, allegations denied by Pyongyang. Mr Kim's death sparked a diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea, with the latter insisting the deceased was a man named Kim Chol, the name used in the diplomatic passport found on Mr Kim, and that he had died of a heart attack.

In late March, Kuala Lumpur allowed several North Korean men who were named as suspects in the murder to leave Malaysia in exchange for the return of Malaysian diplomatic staff who had been prevented from leaving Pyongyang.

The trial resumes next Thursday (Feb 8).

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