An Indonesian woman standing trial in Malaysia on a charge of murdering the North Korean dictator’s half-brother last year practiced a series of pranks and was rewarded with a trip to Cambodia prior to the killing, her lawyer argued in court on Friday.
The attorney for Siti Aisyah presented text messages to paint his client as an unwitting participant in what she thought was a prank for a reality TV show, during the deadly attack with a nerve agent against Kim Jong Nam at a Kuala Lumpur area airport on Feb. 13, 2017.
“The significance of today’s evidence is that we are telling the court that this girl was tricked into doing these pranks and persuaded to go to the airport on Feb. 13. So we have to show why Siti Aisyah was at the airport on that day and the rest is up to the prosecution to prove that she in fact committed the murder,” defense lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told the court.
“People will lie, but circumstances will not lie and we continue to show the consistency of this through this corroboration through text messages,” he said.
Prosecutors have charged Siti and co-defendant Doan Thi Huong, 29, of Vietnam, with murder for allegedly smearing VX nerve agent on Kim’s face after receiving training from North Korean agents who later fled Malaysia. The women could be executed, if convicted of the charge.
Siti received 1,500 ringgit (U.S. $380) in January 2017 to purchase tickets to Phnom Penh from a North Korean national identified as James (also known as Ri Ji U), who allegedly set up the prank scam, lead investigator Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz testified.
Gooi said Siti flew to the Cambodian capital on Jan. 21, 2017, and met James there. Wan Azirul said the trip occurred the next day.
Previously, Wan Azirul had testified that Siti was paid 400 ringgit ($101) by James after performing a prank on Jan. 5, 2017, at a mall in Kuala Lumpur.
On Friday, Gooi asked Wan Azirul if Siti performed another prank the next day with James and Malaysian taxi driver Kamarudin Masyod at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), a terminal next to Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 where Kim was killed.
The lawyer also said she performed four more pranks at two hotels and two shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur in the weeks before the murder.
Wan Azirul said Siti told investigators about the pranks but there was no CCTV evidence that they occurred.
Gooi presented a series of text messages to bolster the defense’s claim that the Indonesian woman was hoodwinked into performing what she thought was a prank.
In one text conversation dated Jan. 11, 2017, Siti asked James: “Today no job?” and received a response: “Maybe tomorrow or the day after because my boss is not here at the moment. I will call you tomorrow to confirm.”
In another text conversation four days later, Siti wrote “I see today I acting no good right?” referring to a prank around the Petronas Twin Towers. James responded: “Not natural.”
After the court session that was shortened because Wan Azirul complained of illness, Gooi told reporters he was disappointed that police discounted the defense’s version of the killing.
“From the answers given you can see that they never fully investigated, it’s a lopsided investigation,” he said. “The investigation team never replied to any of the letters sent to them by the defense team.”
Gooi pointed to Wan Azirul’s inability to remember important details.
“He doesn’t appear to be cooperative. Everything that we pose to him he disagrees with, he cannot remember,” Gooi said. “We have to turn around and show him [the evidence] and only then does he agree.
“I must say that in my 38 years of experience doing court work this appears to be one of the more exceptional cases.”
Doan’s lawyer will question Wan Azirul after Gooi finishes his cross examination. The trial is to resume on Feb. 22.