Home > News > Nation
Friday August 23, 2013 MYT 7:55:00 PM
Friday August 23, 2013 MYT 8:10:55 PM
by tashny sukumaran, rahmah ghazali, michelle tam, qishin tariq, AND victoria brown
C/Insp Azilah Hadri (left) and Kpl Sirul Azhar Umar during the trial in 2009.
PETALING JAYA: Seven years ago, a woman was murdered and her body blown up in an attempt to conceal the evidence.
Today, after a number of high-profile trials and acquittals, the truth behind the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu remains a mystery.
The acquittal and release of Kpl Sirul Azhar Umar and C/Insp Azilah Hadri, the two former Special Action Unit Personnel members, who were found guilty and sentenced to death in 2009 for her murder, has raised calls for further inquiry into the Altantuya murder case.
"There should be an independent inquiry into the conduct of the prosecution in the Altantuya case," said DAP National Legal Bureau chairman Gobind Singh Deo in a statement.
"The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal of Sirul and Azilah citing, amongst other things, a failure on part of the prosecution to call a material witness, one DSP Musa Safri, a former aide de camp of the Prime Minister," he said.
Gobind claimed that not calling this witness resulted in their case collapsing.
"The Attorney-General and his team ought to have known that he was an important witness. They have vast experience in handling cases like these and they know for a fact that they would run a serious risk of having their case thrown out for failure of calling him," he said.
He said that it raised questions as to whether there had been "proper investigations and a proper presentation of evidence in court".
"We cannot allow these concerns to go unanswered. There must be an independent inquiry by people who are not associated with the AG's chambers to review the investigation papers and to report back as to the propriety of the conduct of the prosecution in this case," said the Puchong MP.
Deputy Solicitor General II Datuk Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah who led the prosecution said that they would be appealing the Court of Appeal's judgement.
Another option to seek justice for Altantuya lies in the civil court.
Her father, Dr Setev Shaariibuu will pursue the RM100mil civil suit against the two officers acquitted of her murder, said his counsel Karpal Singh.
Karpal, who is holding a watching brief for Shaariibuu, said he will push for the suit to be heard as soon as the criminal case is settled in the Federal Court.
"I am writing to the Mongolian embassy, to whom I also represent," he said.
"I have not received instructions from Mr Setev. However, he is bound to contact me," said Karpal, added that he was sure Altantuya's father was aware of the outcome of the appeal.
Other news portals reported Setev had asked the Mongolian government to intervene in the matter, however, Bar Council president Christopher Leong believes there is nothing much that it can do.
"This is a criminal matter that is now within the purview of the courts, and there should not be any interference in the judicial process by any quarter," said Leong.
The case is clearly a polarising one, with some political implications.
Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, in charge of legal affairs at the time of prosecution, declined to comment.
Tan Sri Musa Hassan, who was Inspector-General of Police at the time the case came to light, was equally tight-lipped, saying, "It's the court's decision. No comment is needed".
PKR vice-president and Padang Serai MP N.Surendran said the trial of Altantuya's killers "was a charade from the beginning".
"Now no one has been found guilty or punished for Altantuya's murder. Is this justice? It is a national embarrassment and failure of justice," the lawyer told The Star Online.
Azmi Sharom, a law professor, said the public had forgotten about the case but its ghost has risen again.
"There will be all these conspiracy theories coming up saying that the relevant authorities purposely did a bad job so that they can overturn the conviction.
"In a high-profile case like this, a lot of questions will be raised. Issues like why certain things weren't brought up in trial as well as questions about the standards of the prosecutor," he said.
Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, the former Minister in charge of legal affairs, posted several tweets on the acquittal.
One read: "I am disappointed with the Court of Appeal judges. Not for acquittal but for failing to order a retrial #fb".
"In the interest of justice, a balanced retrial would have been appropriate. Now it's not possible," said Zaid when contacted.
He said that if a retrial had been ordered, it would allow both sides to take another look at the case as "witnesses can be called again, to get justice".
"I think the decision to acquit those two puts an end to this case altogether. Under the double jeopardy law, they can't be tried for the same charges again," said Zaid.
According to him, the Court of Appeal in England can order a retrial as the law sets out certain circumstances allowing it.
"I believe the rules in Malaysia are the same. There should not be an acquittal when something seems to suggest that it's not right - in our case, there was a prior conviction," he said.
He said the Court of Appeal itself had pointed out several flaws in the earlier trial: unclear evidence, material discrepancies, and the failure to call key witnesses.
"Obviously, the prosecutor didn't do a proper job. At the same time, I think there was enough evidence to suggest the two were involved in some way. Otherwise, the first judge wouldn't have convicted them," he added.
To Leong, questions have been raised as to the conduct of the police investigations and the prosecution in this case.
"At the moment, it appears that no one is to be held accountable for Altantuya's murder. This case has left many questions unanswered. It begs the further question of 'Who does one turn to for justice in Malaysia when one's child is murdered?", he said.
Suaram secretariat member Cynthia Gabriel said the verdict raised more unanswered questions.
"The fundamental questions remain unanswered. No one has paid for her death, no one knows why she was killed and who gave the instruction to kill her," she said when contacted.
Tags / Keywords:
Courts, Crime, Murder, Altantuya Shaariibuu, Acquittal, Court of Appeal
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)