PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has overturned the conviction of two officers accused of the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.
The panel chaired by Justice Mohamed Apandi Ali allowed the appeal of the two former Special Action Unit personnel members, sparing them from the gallows.
In 2009, Kpl Sirul Azhar Umar and C/Insp Azilah Hadri were convicted and sentenced to death by the Shah Alam High Court for killing the Mongolian woman at Mukim Bukit Raja, Klang, between 10pm on Oct 19, 2006, and 1am on Oct 20, 2006.
The three-person panel which included Justices Linton Albert and Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat ruled that the cumulative effect of the misdirections by the trial judge had rendered the judgement unsafe.
The panel concluded that the trial judge had erred by not examining whether the contradictions and inconsistencies in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses were material.
In regards to the explosives, they ruled that after linking the explosives to the death of Altantuya, the trial judge should have made a further finding to connect the explosives to the appellants.
"Thus with this, we acquit and discharge the two appellants," said Justice Tengku Maimun.
The family and supporters of the accused were seen sighing in relief, and uttering thanks when they heard the judgement, while the appellants remained stoic in the dock.
Before being led away, Kpl Sirul thanked his family, his lawyers and even the media for following him throughout the trial.
"I intend to try to live a normal life when I get out," he told reporters.
Prisons director-general Datuk Zulkifli Omar confirmed that C/Insp Azilah left Kajang Prison at 11.45am after completing the documentation process while Kpl Sirul was released from Tapah Prison.
Deputy Solicitor General II Datuk Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah who led the prosecution said that they would be appealing against the Court of Appeal's judgement.
Kpl Sirul and C/Insp Azilah were represented by Kamarul Hisham and Datuk Hazman Ahmad, respectively.
Former political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda Baginda, who was jointly charged with them, was acquitted of by the High Court on Oct 31, 2008, after the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against him.