Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cops to hang for Altantuya murder

Isn't it strange? Nobody, including the High Court judge raise the question of why these policemen wanted to kill a woman, whom they know not? Nobody raise the question of the motives. And if there is no motives, these policemen should be freed? Or are they leaving it to the Federal Court to do so. Just another wayang-kulit show?

By Debra Chong
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.

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.

In pronouncing judgment, High Court judge Datuk Mohd Zaki Md Yasin noted that both Azilah and Sirul had, separately and together, failed to defend themselves “beyond reasonable doubt” against the charge.

“I find the defence had essentially been one where each of them is blaming each other and one of denial,” he said.

“As such the defence has been both irreconcilable and unbelievable, thus they had failed to raise any reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case which I find to be irresistibly conclusive on account of the physical and circumstantial evidence adduced before me,” Mohd Zaki added.

“The prosecution has therefore proved the case against the first and second accused beyond any reasonable doubt. Accordingly, I find the first and second guilty and I hereby convict them both as charged.

“I therefore now sentence you first and second accused to death. Both of you will be kept in lawful custody until you are brought to a lawful place where you will be hanged by your neck until you are dead,” he said.

On Oct 31 last year, the same court acquitted political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, 48, of abetting them in the murder which attracted intense international scrutiny due to its tenuous link to then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

The former aide to Najib walked free without ever having to enter his defence and has since moved to Britain.

Azilah and Sirul, who stood in the dock, seemed shell-shocked; the latter — a father of two — looked particularly grim.

While Sirul had entered the courtroom only at the last minute before Mohd Zaki himself, Azilah was earlier seen smiling and exchanging good-natured banter with his family, friends and fiancée.

He was even passed a bottle of cologne which he sprayed below his jawline before donning his jacket over a pale blue, long-sleeved shirt fastened with cufflinks.

Azilah's fiancée Nur Azila Baharuddin, who has remained by his side throughout the long trial, immediately broke down in silent tears. As soon as court was dismissed, she moved to sit beside him on a long bench as he reached out to console her.

“We expected him to walk free,” a calm but swollen-eyed Nur Azila told reporters later. She added her fiance’s parents were absent as they lived in Sarawak.

Asked if she thought the verdict was politically-motivated, Nur Azila shook her head.

“No, I don’t think so. It’s just, with a decision like that, we just accept it for now,” she said, and pointed out there were still two platforms of appeal left.

Nur Azila, who had remained optimistic throughout the whole ordeal, still dreams of marrying Azilah. She refused to admit the relationship was doomed.

“I am sad, but I have to be calm for him,” she said, sounding unnaturally upbeat.

Sirul, represented by Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin, Hasnal Redzua Marican and Ahmad Zaidi Zainal, will file an appeal tomorrow.

Azilah was represented by Datuk Hazman Ahmad and J. Kuldeep Kumar.

A policeman on duty told The Malaysian Insider the duo would be taken back to the Sungai Buloh Prison. According to records, Azilah has been detained there for 891 days and Sirul, for 895 days.

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.

The prosecution team led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah said the verdict was “fair”. He added the prosecution had presented strong physical and circumstantial evidence to convict the two policemen but noted they could still appeal against the decision all the way to the Federal Court.

He also emphasised: “There’s not been the involvement of anyone else ... politically or otherwise.”

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