PUTRAJAYA: Former police commando Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, who was sentenced to death for the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, is not being detained for violating Australian immigration laws, his lawyer Datuk Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin said.
“In fact, Sirul has not run foul of any Australian law. He is just being held in an immigration centre following a red alert issued by Interpol,” he said in clarifying the notion that his client was detained because his visa had expired.
Kamarul said following the red notice, the Australian immigration authorities had detained Sirul, pending the Malaysian authorities’ next course of action.
“However, Sirul cannot be held indefinitely,” said Kamarul, who met his client in Australia last week.
Sirul, a one-time bodyguard of former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, was arrested in Queensland on Jan 20 and is being held at Sydney’s Villawood immigration centre.
Kamarul said Sirul had a valid visa when he was arrested but it would have expired by now.
“He has to apply for a protective visa to remain in Australia and fight any court battle there,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
Kamarul said they have engaged local lawyers to represent Sirul, including to stop any attempt to extradite him to Malaysia from Australia.
“There will be some interesting developments but I can’t reveal yet until we get things sorted out.”
Australia signed an extradition treaty with Malaysia in 2006 but is unlikely to deport Sirul because he faces the death penalty.
Sirul and Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri had their 2009 death sentence reinstated on Jan 13 for the murder of 28-year-old Mongolian in 2006.
However, Sirul was not present when the verdict was delivered and subsequent news report revealed that he left for Australia last October.
A five-man Federal Court bench led by Chief Justice Tun Arifin Zakaria sentenced the men to be hanged, overturning a 2013 Court of Appeal ruling over the killing of Altantuya, who was the lover of political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda.
Abdul Razak, a confidante of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was charged with abetting Azilah and Sirul but was acquitted by the High Court in 2008 without his defence being called.
The government did not appeal.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Noor Rashid Ibrahim was reported as saying that Sirul’s matter had been referred to the Attorney-General’s Chambers for repatriation. — The Malaysian Insider
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on February 5, 2015.