Defence lays out history of pranks at trial into killing of Kim Jong-un's brother
Defendant told police she had used a substance like baby cream for pranks, but not on Feb. 17, 2017
A woman accused of poisoning the North Korean leader's half-brother played a prank on a Vietnamese government official in Hanoi less than two weeks before the sensational killing, her lawyer told a Malaysian court on Tuesday.
Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong is charged, along with an Indonesian woman, Siti Aisyah, with killing Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with VX, a banned chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13, 2017.
Defence lawyers say the women thought they were part of a prank reality show and did not know they were handling poison.
Hisyam Teh, Huong's lawyer, screened a closed-circuit television video recorded at Hanoi's international airport on Feb. 2, 2017, which showed her approaching a man from behind and putting her arms around his neck.
The man was a Vietnamese government official named Trinh Ngoc Linh, Teh told the court.
"[Linh] had given a statement to police saying that on that date, he had arrived in Hanoi from Singapore with his mother," Teh said, while questioning Wan Azirul Nizam, the lead police investigator in the case.
Linh would travel to Malaysia to testify if the defence needed him, Teh told reporters during a break in the hearing.
Alleged handler 'Mr. Y' not in custody
Teh also screened two videos showing Huong acting as the victim of pranks played by a Vietnamese filmmaker, Nguyen Manh Quang.
Quang, in an affidavit submitted to the court, said he had hired Huong to act in the videos, recorded in 2016.
"These videos explain why the accused identified herself as an actress," Teh said, citing Huong's statement to police.
In the statement, Huong said she was tricked into acting for a prank show by a man named Mr. Y, later identified as Ri Ji Hyon, one of four North Koreans who fled Malaysia on the day of the killing. None of the four has been returned to Malaysia to face charges.
The court heard that Huong was told by Mr. Y that the video on Feb. 13 would be important because it would be uploaded on YouTube. She told police she wasn't able to contact Mr. Y after that. She returned to the airport two days later to carry out another prank but there was no sign of Mr. Y and she was detained at the airport.
"Mr. Y is a liar. He used me to do video," she said.
Before the killing, Huong said, she played several pranks in Malaysia and Vietnam.
These often involved her approaching unsuspecting men and putting her hands on their faces or kissing them on the cheek. She would then apologize before running away, she said.
Claimed no ill effects from new substance
On one occasion, Ri applied "baby cream" on her hands and told her to put her hands on a man's face from behind, she said. He applied an oil-like substance on her hands on the day of the killing.
"I don't feel anything on my hands, only sticky and oily," she said in the statement, adding that she had not experienced any burning or pain.
Ri told her a new actress and actor would join them for the airport prank. He described the actor as a fat and bald man with a "black bag and jacket", matching Kim's description on the day of his death.
"I didn't know that the actor already died until Feb. 16, 2017, when the police told me," Huong said.
Defence lawyers argue the killing was politically motivated, with many key suspects linked to the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, suggesting the women were mere pawns.
The police investigator Nizam disagreed with the defence lawyer's assertion that Huong was tricked into carrying out the killing and was a scapegoat. He agreed however that Huong, who entered Malaysia on Feb 4, could have fled the country and disposed of her VX-tainted clothing if she had known she was given VX to kill Kim.
Teh told the court that instead, Huong had a flight ticket to return to Hanoi on Feb 23.
The two women face the death penalty if convicted, but not if they lacked intent to kill.
The trial is to resume Wednesday.
With files from Associated Press