One of the two Southeast Asian women accused of murdering the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader practiced carrying out what she believed was a prank at an airport in Vietnam two weeks before the Kuala Lumpur killing, a Malaysian court heard on Tuesday.
Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong had been recruited to participate in what she thought was a reality TV show, her lawyer told the court, as the defense panel laid out a history of pranks to bolster the claim their clients were scapegoats in Kim Jong Nam’s murder on Feb. 13, 2017.
Doan is standing trial with Indonesian Siti Aisyah on charges that they smeared Kim’s face with the deadly VX nerve agent. If found guilty, they could face the death penalty.
“We maintained throughout our entire defense that she was recruited by the North Koreans on the false premise that she had been employed to do funny videos or video pranks,” Doan’s lawyer, Hisyam Teh Pok Teik, told reporters during a courtroom break.
Hisyam spoke after the defense team on Tuesday presented closed-circuit TV footage from Hanoi Noi Bai airport showing Doan apparently touching a Vietnamese man’s face from behind.
The 10-minute video, dated Feb. 2, 2017, shows Doan standing at the arrival hall of Noi Bai airport apparently waiting for her prank target, according to her defense lawyers. They said the target was Vietnamese government employee Trinh Ngoc Linh, who was seen in the video walking through the terminal after visiting Singapore.
Doan could be seen running toward Trinh and apparently touching his face with her hands as he exited the arrival area. The whole interaction happened in seconds, after which she is seen walking away.
During the court hearing, the defense panel also presented two other videos, which they said showed Doan carrying out similar pranks in Vietnam.
The videos were produced in 2016 by a man named Nguyen Manh Quang, who runs a YouTube channel with prank videos, lawyers said.
Doan participated in a jigsaw puzzle game on a tablet device in one of the videos and a game with a toy crocodile in another. In an affidavit signed by Nguyen on April 24, 2017, which was presented in court, Nguyen said he paid Doan about U.S. $13 for each of the two videos.
Naran Singh, another defense lawyer, said the videos indicated that Doan was involved in the business of making funny and prank videos.
“She was recruited as an actress to prepare video pranks on several other people. You saw this at Hanoi Garden and now at Hanoi Airport,” Naran told the court. “All these go to show she is a victim.”
Also on Tuesday, the prosecution’s main witness agreed during cross-examination that four missing North Korean agents who were believed involved in Kim’s murder should be on trial as well.
Police had earlier identified the four as Ri Ji Hyon (alias Mr. Y), Ri Jae Nam (alias Hanamori), Ri Ji-u (alias James) and Hong Song Hac (alias Chang) who fled Kuala Lumpur hours after the murder.
“Do you agree with me that the four North Korean men, Mr. Y, Hanamori, James and Chang ought to be here sitting in this dock?” Hisyam asked lead police investigator Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz. “Your answer is very important, the whole world wants to know.”
“I agree,” Wan Azirul replied.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.