Kim Jong Nam murder accused recruited two months before his death, court hears

Kim Jong Nam

A woman accused of murdering the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader was recruited by a suspect at a Hanoi bar two months earlier, her lawyer has said.

Details about Doan Thi Huong, from Vietnam, are emerging at her trial for the first time since she was charged, along with Siti Aisyah from Indonesia.

They are accused of smearing Kim Jong Nam's face with the banned VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur's airport on February 13 last year.

They denied murder when their trial began in Shah Alam on October 2, and are the only suspects in custody, though prosecutors have said four North Koreans who fled the country were also involved.

Lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik told the court that Huong informed police after she was detained last year that she was introduced to a Korean man known as Mr Y by a Vietnamese bar owner in December 2016.

Mr Y has been identified in court as Ri Ji Hyon, one of the four North Korean suspects who fled Malaysia.

Huong said Nguyen Bich Thuy, who was a former co-worker at a pub, asked if she wanted to work for a Korean company as an actress in a "short movie or funny video," according to her police statement read out by Mr Teh.

She said she was introduced to Mr Y at the Hay Bar, which belonged to Ms Thuy and her husband, and asked for a salary of 1,000 US dollars (€809) a month.

Huong said she participated in her first prank outside Hanoi's Opera House, where she was told to kiss a stranger on the cheek.

She said in the police statement that it was unsuccessful because the person shied away.

Mr Teh told the court that Ms Thuy had declined to come to Malaysia to testify but was questioned by Vietnamese police in March last year and made sworn statements that supported Huong's claims to police.

The lawyer said Ms Thuy told Vietnamese police that Mr Y, who speaks fluent Vietnamese, had initially wanted to recruit her but she declined due to family commitments.

She said she then remembered Huong loved to act and introduced her.

The youngest of five siblings, Huong, 29, said in her police statement that her parents were farmers and she studied accounting at Hanoi Business and Technology University and later worked for three years as a waitress in Hanoi.

Mr Teh was cross-examining chief police investigator Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz, who acknowledged he had not investigated Huong's claims or contacted Vietnamese police to get details from Ms Thuy.

The lawyer also accused Mr Wan Azirul of being "a biased investigator, not independent and not interested in the truth".

The hearing will resume tomorrow.

The two women face the death penalty if convicted, but not if they lacked intent to kill. Prosecutors contend the women knew they were handling poison.

Mr Kim, the eldest son in the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding, had been living abroad for years after falling out of favour.

It is thought he could have been seen as a threat to the rule of his half brother, Kim Jong Un.


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