Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cops to hang for Altantuya murder


Cops to hang for Altantuya murder

SHAH ALAM, April 9 — Policemen Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar were today sentenced to death by the High Court for murdering Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu, ending one of the longest trials in Malaysian history.

Azilah, 33, and Sirul, 37, were found guilty of killing Altantuya, 28, and then blowing up her body in a jungle clearing at nearby Bukit Raja between 10pm on Oct 19, 2006 and 1am the next day. They are appealing their sentence.

The two members of the Bukit Aman Special Action Squad (UTK) were charged under Section 149 of the Penal Code, which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

On Oct 31 last year, the same court acquitted political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, 48, of abetting them in the murder, which drew intense international scrutiny due to its tenuous link to newly-minted Prime Minister Datuki Seri Najib Razak.

The former aide to the then deputy premier walked free without ever having to enter his defence and has since moved to Britain.

The courtroom was full with media and family members of the two accused but not as packed as Razak's verdict day. Azilah looked relaxed earlier, smiling to his fiancee and family. He even sprayed himself with cologne. Sirul only appeared at the last minute.

Initially the duo were tried together with Razak, executive director of the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre (MSRC).

The prosecution team, consisting of Deputy Public Prosecutor Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah, Noorin Badaruddin, Manoj Kurup and Hanim Rashid, stressed in its submission that Azilah and Sirul were the people behind Altantuya's murder.

Based on the evidence gathered from prosecution witnesses, the explosive used to blow up Altantuya's body was probably placed in her mouth.

Manoj noted at the end of the prosecution's case that both accused had the motive to kill and it was a preplanned crime.

Manoj noted that circumstantial evidence that the prosecution tried to prove was never denied, explained or answered by both defendants.

"Several of the strong evidence deduced from the testimonies when spun together will make two ropes that are strong enough to hang each one of them.

"The prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt the actions of the duo call for their conviction on the murder carried out with common intention," he had said.

Azilah, who started his testimony on Jan 15, stated that he had no motive to kill or destroy the woman and instead he only met Altantuya to advise her politely not to harass Abdul Razak or create a ruckus outside the latter's home.

Azilah also told the court that he was ordered by a superior, DSP Musa Safri, to help Abdul Razak and thus he would not have done something stupid like killing and what more when he was a policeman.

While defending himself, Sirul broke down a few times and related to the court that he had been made the “sacrificial lamb” in the murder.

The case has set many records including being the most number of days for hearing (159 days) and the calling of 84 witnesses at the prosecution stage and two at the defence stage, and it remained a high-profile case for almost two years before Razak was released.

According to records, Azilah has been detained at the Sungai Buloh Prison for 891 days while Sirul for 895 days.

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