PETALING JAYA: The trial of the year – the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder trial – begins today at the Shah Alam High Court.
Scheduled to run for a month or more to hear the prosecution’s arguments in its entirety, the trial will shed light on one of the most sensational, not to mention gruesome, murders to hit this country.
The victim, a 28-year-old Mongolian beauty, was reportedly blown to pieces using explosives after she was apparently shot dead.
In the dock are policemen Cif Inspektor Azilah Hadri, 31, and Koperal Sirul Azhar Umar, 36, who are charged with committing the murder in Mukim Bukit Raja, Selangor, between 10pm on Oct 19 and 1am on Oct 20 last year.
Political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, 47, who is accused of abetting the two Unit Tindakan Khas (special action force) personnel, allegedly committed his offence at the Bangunan Getah Asli in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, between 9.54am and 11.05am on Oct 18 last year.
However, despite assurances that the trial would go on uninterrupted, recent developments have cast doubts on this.
Today, at least one or two issues have to be sorted out.
Presiding judge Justice Mohd Zaki Md Yasin will first have to hear an application by veteran lawyer Karpal Singh, who is holding a watching brief for Altantuya’s family, to “participate actively in the trial.”
Karpal Singh, in his application filed last Thursday, is seeking the right to question prosecution witnesses and make submissions.
Although the application would appear to favour the prosecution, its (the prosecution’s) stance on this matter is still not clear.
On the other side, the defence is almost certain to oppose Karpal Singh’s bid.
One of the lawyers in the case, when asked about the application, said that his client would most likely instruct him to object to it, saying it would otherwise subject all accused to two sets of prosecutors.
Another matter that the court is expected to assess is the question mark floating above C/Insp Azilah’s defence team following the appointment of two new lawyers – Hazman Ahmad and J. Kuldeep Kumar.
In their first appearance last Tuesday, the two lawyers informed the court that they were appointed by the chief inspector in April after Zulkifli Noordin, the counsel on record until then, had discharged himself.
However, Zulkifli has indicated that he would be present in court today.
Apart from these two issues, there is still the matter of the appeal by Kpl Sirul Azhar against the dismissal of his application for access to all witnesses’ statements ahead of the trial.
Justice Mohd Zaki dismissed the application last Tuesday, ruling that the law only provided the accused the right to his own statement recorded by the police.
Kpl Sirul Azhar’s lead counsel Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin filed the notice of appeal last Wednesday and obtained a certificate of urgency from the Shah Alam High Court registry while repeatedly stressing that he would not seek an adjournment of the trial proper despite the appeal.
Any request for postponement would definitely be objected to by lawyer Wong Kian Kheong, counsel for Abdul Razak, who has continuously applied for an earlier trial citing widespread negative publicity against his client.