Malaysian authorities did not have enough information to arrest four men considered as suspects in the assassination of the North Korean leader’s half-brother at a Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13, a police investigator assigned to the case testified Wednesday.
The four, who remain at large, are believed to be North Koreans. Their aliases and nicknames appear in the charge sheet as defendants, along with Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, who are standing trial for the murder of Kim Jong Nam.
“The four suspects were yet to be arrested by police due to insufficient information about them,” Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz, a police investigator and witness called by the prosecution testified. “As a result of my investigation, I could only obtain their nicknames, and there were no further details like passport number or their phone numbers.”
Kim, the eldest son of former North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and the estranged sibling of Pyongyang’s current leader, Kim Jong Un, was fatally attacked with the nerve agent VX as he prepared to board a flight to Macau, Malaysian police said. His killing was captured on security cameras at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2).
Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz had identified the four male suspects shown in CCTV footage as Mr. Chang, Mr. Y, James and Hanamori (alias Grandpa or Uncle) during his earlier testimony before the court on Oct. 12.
During Wednesday’s deliberations at the Shah Alam High Court near Kuala Lumpur, the prosecution questioned him on why the four male suspects had not been taken into custody, although they were jointly charged with the two female defendants.
Wan Azirul said Malaysian law-enforcement had tried to locate the four men by coordinating with Interpol.
All four men were spotted on airport security videos and identified after investigators questioned the two women, Wan Azirul had testified earlier on.
Surveillance videos presented by the prosecution earlier in court showed the two women separately meeting two men at the airport who wore baseball caps, before the attack on Kim was carried out in the crowded departure terminal at KLIA2.
Prosecutors accuse the four men of intending to kill Kim, along with the two women who were seen with the two men who allegedly put liquid on the women’s hands before Kim was attacked.
Also on Wednesday, lead prosecutor Muhammad Iskandar Ahmad told reporters that his team would show security videos of the two other male suspects on Thursday.
“Perhaps tomorrow, we will show to the court who are the two. In fact, if you followed this, we have shown Y (Mr. Y) and Chang (Mr. Chang). So perhaps tomorrow we will show another two suspects who are still at-large,” he said.
The prosecution’s case would not be weakened by the absence of the four men from the trial, the prosecutor argued.
“It caused no harm to our case,” he said, adding that the four men were being tried in absentia and charged under the legal principle of common intent.
The two Southeast Asian women have pleaded not guilty to murder, saying they were tricked into attacking Kim by being made to think that they were playing a prank for a reality TV show. The defendants face the death penalty, if convicted.
Defense lawyers claim the Southeast Asian women were scapegoats and victims of an elaborate trick involving the four men.
Wan Azirul also testified on Wednesday that there were no CCTV videos to bolster statements from the women claiming that they carried out rehearsals in five areas outside the airport.
Defense lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told reporters before the trial that his client, Aisyah, was recruited in early January by a North Korean man known to her only as James to star in hidden-camera prank shows.
He said James and Aisyah went to malls, hotels and airports, where she would rub oil or pepper sauce on strangers. James video-recorded the encounters on his phone, and paid Aisyah between $100 and $200 for each one, he said.
“Checks on CCTV recordings at three of the locations did not find any footage of the women, while police could not obtain footages from two others, as one only stored data for seven days, while the other did not have recordings on the said date as they were having their CCTV system upgraded,” Wan Azirul said.
Two of the places are hotels in Kuala Lumpur, one is the KLCC shopping complex, and two others areas are at the Kuala Lumpur Central railway station, he said.
On Oct. 10, Wan Azirul testified that one of the defendants, Doan, was filmed by a CCTV camera at the airport practicing moves on a random person similar to ones that were captured on film during the attack on Kim.
The trial is scheduled to resume Thursday. The court so far has heard testimony from 13 prosecution witnesses, including forensic pathologists, chemists and police photographers.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.