Monday, January 12, 2015

Apex court’s verdict tomorrow ends 9-year Altantuya murder saga

BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR



The Federal Court will decide tomorrow on the appeal against the acquittal of two police commandos in Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu's murder case. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, January 12, 2015.
The Federal Court will decide tomorrow on the appeal against the acquittal of two police commandos in Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu's murder case. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, January 12, 2015.
One of Malaysia's high-profile murder cases, the gruesome death of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, will come to an end tomorrow when the Federal Court decides whether to allow the prosecution's appeal against the acquittal of two former police commandos who were charged with the crime.


A five-man bench chaired by Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria, which heard the appeal last June, will deliver their verdict whether the two former special action unit (UTK) personnel were responsible for the Mongolian woman's death nine years ago.
Altantuya’s murder is also important due to the alleged involvement of persons close to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Evidence in court revealed that the Mongolian translator was either murdered by C4 explosives or was killed first and her remains destroyed on October 18, 2006, in the outskirts of Shah Alam, near capital city Kuala Lumpur.
On April 9 , 2009, the High Court meted out the death sentence on Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar after a marathon 159-day trial.

Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu's body was blown up with C4 explosives. – File pic, January 12, 2015.
Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu's 
body was blown up with C4 
explosives. – File pic, January 12, 2015. 


Since they were charged in 2006, Azilah and Sirul had never been photographed as the police had always brought them to court with their faces fully covered under jackets.


Former political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, who was Altantuya's lover, was acquitted in 2008 for abetment without his defence being called. The prosecution did not appeal his acquittal.
It emerged during the trial that Razak, a confidante of Najib, had enlisted Deputy Superintendent Musa Safri's help as he could not tolerate the harassment from Altantuya.
Musa was at the time the aide-de-camp of Najib, who was then the deputy prime minister.
On August 23, 2013, a three-man Court of Appeal bench acquitted the two policemen due to lack of evidence. In fact, judge Tengku Maimun Tengku Mat, who delivered the written grounds, said the two should have been freed without their defence called.
The bench ruled that the failure to call Musa proved fatal to the prosecution's case.
Tengku Maimun said it should not be overlooked that the ugly and horrendous episode had started with the request by Razak to Musa before Azilah and Sirul came into the picture.
However, the prosecution in its appeal to the apex court said even without the testimony of Musa, the Court of Appeal should have upheld the conviction of the two police commandos.
The prosecution said there was no need to put Musa on the stand as he was only a peripheral figure in the case and that an affidavit by Razak in support of his bail application revealed that the senior police officer's role was limited to introducing him (Razak) to the Brickfields police chief.
"After that, Musa did not have a significant role as a witness. Furthermore, Azilah had told the court that any action or decision came from his own initiative," the prosecution had said in its appeal.
Even Sirul, who gave an unsworn statement from the dock, had said that Musa was not involved and neither did he (Musa) give any directive.
Sirul had also pleaded with the judge not to impose the death sentence on him, saying: "I am the black sheep who has to be sacrificed to protect unnamed people."
At the Federal Court hearing, lawyers for the former policemen defended the Court of Appeal’s decision.
Lawyer M. Manoharan, who followed the case closely, told The Malaysian Insider the Federal Cout had wide powers which include ordering a retrial if there was a miscarriage of justice.
"However, I doubt that will happen. It is either a conviction or accquittal as decided by the appellate court," he added.
Lawyer M. Visvanathan said the policemen should not be prejudiced against due to the prosecution’s failure to call material witnesses to give evidence.
"An accused is entitled to an acquittal once the defence created a doubt in the prosecution's case," he said, adding that prolonging the case would incur judicial time and expense to conduct a fresh trial.
Moreover, he said a key prosecution witness, private investigator P. Balasubramaniam, had died and there were several others who had come from overseas to testify.
Balasubramaniam, who was hired by Razak to keep an eye on Altantuya, died of a heart attack in 2013 shortly after returning to Malaysia after nearly five years of living in exile in India. – January 12, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/apex-courts-verdict-tomorrow-ends-9-year-altantuya-murder-saga#sthash.9HtqFzOw.dpuf

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