PUTRAJAYA: One of Malaysia’s most high-profile murder cases, the gruesome death of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, could come to an end today 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 on whether the two former special action unit personnel were responsible for the Mongolian woman’s death nine years ago.
Evidence in court revealed that the Mongolian translator was either murdered by C4 explosives or was killed first and her remains destroyed on Oct 18, 2006, in the outskirts of Shah Alam, near 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.
Former political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, who was Altantuya’s lover, was acquitted in 2008 of abetment without his defence being called. The prosecution did not appeal his acquittal.
It emerged during the trial that Abdul Razak, a confidante of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had enlisted Deputy Superintendent Musa Safri’s help as he could not tolerate the harassment by Altantuya.
Musa was at the time the aide-de-camp of Najib, who was then the deputy prime minister.
On Aug 23, 2013, a three-man Court of Appeal bench acquitted the two policemen due to lack of evidence. In fact, judge Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan 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 Abdul 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 Abdul Razak in support of his bail application revealed that the senior police officer’s role was limited to introducing him (Abdul Razak) to the Brickfields police chief.
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 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.”
Lawyer M Manoharan, who has followed the case closely, told The Malaysian Insider the Federal Cout could order 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.— The Malaysian Insider
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on January 13, 2015.