Surveillance videos filmed a North Korean embassy official together with four suspects wanted in the murder of Kim Jong Nam, shortly after the killing at a Kuala Lumpur area airport, a police investigator testified Monday.
The four men were North Koreans, lead case investigator Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz also told the court for the first time.
He said that closed-circuit television footage showed the diplomat as well as a manager for North Korea’s state-run airline, Air Koryo, helping the four men at the check-in counter at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 within an hour of the murder of Kim, the estranged half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Wan Azirul testified that he took statements from the North Korean diplomat and airline manager after establishing their identities through the Royal Malaysia Police’s Special Branch.
“They explained that the reason they were there was to assist every North Korean individual or citizen who boarded a flight to leave the country,” Wan Azirul told the Shah Alam High Court outside Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian police in February had named the diplomat as Hyon Kwang Song, 44, a second secretary at Pyongyang’s diplomatic mission in Kuala Lumpur, as well as Kim Uk Il, 37, an Air Koryo manager stationed in Malaysia.
Wan Azirul was carrying on with his testimony as a witness for the prosecution in the trial of two Southeast Asian women who have been charged with Kim Jong Nam’s murder. Monday’s courtroom deliberations were the first in 11 days, since the policeman last took the witness stand.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong have been charged along with the four men who fled the country after the killing on Feb. 13.
Prosecutors have accused the two women of accosting the victim and smearing deadly VX nerve agent on his face in the departure terminal of KLIA 2 as he was preparing to board a flight to Macau.
Both have pleaded not guilty, saying they were tricked into attacking Kim Jong Nam as part of a prank for a reality TV show. Defense lawyers claim they were scapegoats and victims of an elaborate trick involving the four men.
The two, who were arrested days after the killing, face the death penalty by hanging, if convicted.
Known only by aliases
On Monday, Wan Azirul testified that the four men who fled Kuala Lumpur hours after the murder were Hong Song Hac (alias Mr. Chang), 34; Ri Ji Hyon (alias Mr. Y), 33; Ri Jae Nam (alias Hanamori), 57; and O Jong Dil (alias James), 55.
The two women knew them only by their aliases, he said, explaining that he had established the suspects’ identities with help from the Special Branch.
Although the four men arrived in Malaysia on separate dates between Jan. 31 and Feb. 17, all of them left on Feb. 13, the day of the murder, Wan Azirul said. He said three of the four suspects boarded a flight to Jakarta after the killing, but the witness could not recall Jong Dil’s destination.
The killing disrupted Malaysia’s long-time diplomatic relations with North Korea, whose government strongly denied any role in the killing. Officials from the North Korean embassy even refused to identify the body as that of Kim Jong Nam, who was carrying a passport bearing the name of Kim Chol when he was attacked.
But Kuala Lumpur eventually agreed to resolve the feud with Pyongyang by sending the body to Pyongyang in exchange for nine Malaysians trapped there by an exit ban.
Hyon Kwang Song, the second secretary at the North Korean embassy, and Kim Uk Il, the Air Koryo official, as well as a third man whom Malaysian police had also sought for questioning in connection with the murder, were on the same flight that carried Kim Jong Nam’s corpse back to his homeland.