Not just Sirul, govt can also file for death sentence review, says Shafee

PETALING JAYA: A review of the death sentence on former police officer Sirul Azhar Umar, who was convicted of the murder of Mongolian woman Altantuja Shaaribu in 2006, should be filed by the government through the Attorney General, says Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

The senior lawyer said that provisions under the newly enacted Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Act 2023 allowed the court to revise sentences based on the application submitted by individuals.

“The public prosecutor should file an application as the AG, consonant with the requests of the Australian government and its people,” said Muhammad Shafee during Khairy Jamaluddin’s Keluar Sekejap podcast on Friday (Dec 1).

Muhammad Shafee said there was an overwhelming reason why Sirul’s death sentence should be reduced to life imprisonment.

“(The government) should test first and if we lose, then change the law. That same law can allow the AG to apply for a review in certain conditions and this is doable,” Muhammad Shafee said.

Muhammad Shafee also agreed with Khairy who said that the onus on filing the review lies on the government.

“(The ball) is in the government’s court, correct. Previous governments have been sitting on it and it has been 13 years.

“It is not fair to the Malaysian public, the deceased’s families, and also to Najib who had been accused continuously,” added Muhammad Shafee.

On Sunday (Nov 26), Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said Sirul had not applied for a review on his death sentence and that only convicted killer Azilah Hadri had applied for a review.

During the podcast episode with Khairy, Muhammad Shafee spoke extensively on the Altantuya murder case that made global headlines in 2006.

Earlier, Muhammad Shafee said there was a precedent in the 2000s where Malaysia requested assistance of documents from Switzerland in a court case involving Tan Sri Eric Chia.

“Switzerland asked us to guarantee that whipping will not be included as part of Chia’s punishment.

“The deputy public prosecutor then wrote a letter and said that Chia was over 50 years old and not qualified for that treatment. Switzerland entertained our request because of that,” said Muhammad Shafee.

Muhammad Shafee said the Federal Court has discretionary powers to decide on applications filed by individuals.

“There can be a revision or review on cases, where death sentences can be commuted to other sentences,” added Muhammad Shafee.

Altantuya was abducted and murdered in Shah Alam in October 2006, and her remains blown up with military-grade explosives.

Sirul and Azilah Hadri, two of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's bodyguards, were convicted of the murder in 2009.

The Court of Appeal overturned the conviction in 2013 and ordered their release.

During the prosecution's appeal, Sirul fled to Australia. The Federal Court upheld the conviction and reinstated the death penalty.

Former political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, who was charged together with Sirul and Azilah, was freed on Oct 31, 2008, after the court found no concrete evidence against him.

Sirul was arrested and detained by Australian immigration authorities in January 2015 but was not deported owing to the country's policy of not deporting people facing the death penalty.

On Nov 8, the Australian High Court ruled that indefinite immigration detention was unlawful, although the government could impose appropriate visa conditions to protect the local community.

On Dec 16 last year, High Court Judge Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera (now Court of Appeal judge) allowed the suit by Altantuya's family and ordered former policemen Azilah, Sirul, Abdul Razak, and the Malaysian government to jointly pay RM5mil in general, aggravated and exemplary damages to the family.

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