The two women charged with assassinating Kim Jong-Un’s brother had been paid to carry out ‘pranks’ in public by a suspected North Korean agent in the weeks before the killing, a Malaysian court has heard.
Siti Aisyah says she met a man called ‘James’, later identified as alleged spy Ri Ji-U, who offered her a job on a YouTube show, where she would ‘prank’ unsuspecting shoppers by smearing substances on their faces.
After carrying out three ‘audition pranks’ at a shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur, Aisyah claims she was awarded £72 ($102) with promise of further employment for the fake YouTube show.
Siti Aisyah (left at court and right after her arrest) met with a suspected North Korean spy a month before Kim Jong-nam was killed and was paid £72 and made to perform pranks
‘At the Pavilion mall, Siti Aisyah was asked to watch a prank show done by another person and, subsequently, Siti Aisyah performed three pranks on the day itself and the prank was recorded by James,’ Defense lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told Radio Free Asia, quoting the lead investigator of the case.
Both Aisyah, from Indonesia, and co-accused Doan Thi Huong, from Vietnam, say they thought they were participating in further pranks when they wiped deadly VX nerve agent on Kim Jong-nam’s face at Malaysia Airport a month later.
Kim died in agony within minutes and the women were arrested days later.
Lawyers argue the prank show ruse was part of an elaborate plot by a group of North Korean agents to get two women to act as inadvertant assassins.
The pair face death by hanging if convicted for murder. Both have pleaded not guilty, and lawyers say blame for the murder should lie with the North Koreans.
During questioning of an investigating police officer, defence lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said Siti was approached by a taxi driver at a night club before dawn on January 5 last year.
Both Aisyah and co-accused Doan Thi Huong claim they were led to believe they were participating in a prank show when they rubbed nerve agent on Kim’s face, killing him
The driver asked her to meet at a shopping mall where there would be an offer for her to take part in prank acting.
Kim was waiting for a flight to Macau when the attack took place and died in agony just minutes afterwards
Aisyah was shown a video of the prank, before performing it three times, CNN says.
The investigator did not confirm the date but agreed with the account and that it was at the shopping mall where Siti first met with Ri, the alleged North Korean agent.
News reports had previously mentioned Ri as the youngest of eight North Korean men wanted by the Malaysian police for suspected involvement in the killing.
Gooi said outside court that Ri was merely known for recruiting Siti in January and that he was ‘no longer in the scene’ in February when Kim was assassinated.
Malaysian police had previously said that four North Korean suspects fled the country on the day that Kim was attacked at Kuala Lumpur’s airport.
CCTV shows the moment Aisyah and Huong jumped on Kim and rubbed the nerve agent on his face. They say they thought they were taking part in another prank
Kim can be seen talking to security guards in Malaysia Airport after the attack, moments before he collapsed and died
The trial at the Malaysian High Court resumed this month after a seven-week break.
On Monday, a witness told the court that Kim met an unidentified American on the Malaysian resort island of Langkawi on February 9, four days before his death.
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported in May last year that the American was a US intelligence agent and that Kim was believed to have passed information to him.
A police computer forensics report showed that a laptop owned by Kim was last used on February 9, the day of the Langkawi meeting, and that a USB pendrive had been connected to it that day.