10 July, 2007

Altantuya trial: Court disallows Sirul’s confession

In a major blow to the prosecution, the judge rules that an alleged confession made by one of the accused is inadmissible as evidence.

The Shah Alam High Court today dealt a major blow to the prosecution in the Altantuya murder trial when it ruled that a confession made by corporal Sirul Azhar Umar to his superior officer was inadmissible as evidence. Report Malaysiakini here.
clipped from www.thestar.com.my
Altantuya trial: Court rejects confession, trial continues

SHAH ALAM: The High Court here on Tuesday disallowed the confession made by one of the murder accused in the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder trial.

Justice Mohd Zaki Md Yasin, after hearing submissions from the prosecution and the defence yesterday, rejected the admissibility of Kpl Sirul Azhar Umar’s confession in the trial-within-a-trial.

blog it

As Susan has put it :

Now, where does that leave us? For someone who is being described as a robot with an anxious mind, an absolutely confused man, will he now walk free?

MALAYSIA: Murder Trial Exposes Shaky Justice System
(By Baradan Kuppusamy)

KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 10 (IPS) - A decade after Malaysia's criminal justice system earned worldwide condemnation for bending the rules to send a prominent politician to jail, it is back in the dock and under attack for allegedly stretching the rules in a sensational murder case involving top personages.

Opposition lawmakers and independent observers are questioning the diligence of the police investigation into a high profile murder, the integrity of the prosecution in ferreting out "all the truth" and the independence of judges to mete out justice.

At the core of the rising dissatisfaction is the gruesome murder of a 28-year-old Mongolian beauty, Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was abducted from outside the home of Abdul Razak Baginda, one of the country's best known political scientists. Baginda is political adviser to Najib Razak, the country's powerful Deputy Prime Minister.

Altantuya was abducted by two police officers belonging to an elite police unit on Oct. 18 last year, according to public prosecutors’ opening statement when the trial opened last month.

The next day, prosecutors said, Altantuya was killed and her body blasted to pieces with C4 explosives in an attempt to obliterate all traces of her body.

According to witness testimony all records of Altantuya's entry and presence in Malaysia were erased from the computers of the Immigration Department.

Opposition lawmakers charged that such an erasure is impossible without top level intervention. They want to know who, why and how this and other "anomalies" are linked. They are angry that police investigation is "confined" to the barest minimum and not expanding to find "all the truth."

In earlier court affidavits Baginda admitted he had a love affair with the murdered Mongolian who was conversant in French, Russian and Chinese and was variously referred to as a part-time model and translator.

Baginda said he ended the affair but Altantuya harassed him for money and finally came to Malaysia last October to blackmail him by threatening to inform his wife and teenage daughter about the affair.

Witnesses said Altantuya asked for 500,000 US dollars to keep the affair a secret. Baginda admitted he had asked for help from Najib's aide-de-camp and introduced him to the two police officers from whom he had asked for help to resolve his problems.

"I never ask them to kill her," Baginda said in the affidavit.

In the dock are Baginda and two members of the elite Special Forces Command that provides security to VIPs, including Najib whose name has persistently hovered over the crime, the investigation and now the prosecution ever since the murder made the headlines last November.

"The entire conduct of the prosecution (was) not meant to seek and find the truth, to catch the culprits who perpetrated the crime, but at all stages, to protect powerful individuals from being implicated in any way," said opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

"The many twists and turns in the case have raised doubts about the integrity of the prosecution and independence of the judges," he told IPS. "It is sickening, it is pathetic, to say the least."

Among the "strange" twists is the sudden removal of the presiding judge before the trial started without giving a plausible explanation to the lawyers. The head of the prosecution team was changed at the eleventh hour and the reason given -- the prosecution leader was seen playing badminton with the judge -- was rejected by prominent lawyers.

Finally, defence lawyers for the three accused kept changing with one walking out on the first day of hearing, charging that "third parties" were interfering in his work.

The last time when the prosecution and the judiciary were this badly criticised was in 1998 when Anwar was in the dock and accused of corruption and sexual misconduct following a fall out with then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The Anwar trial, universally condemned as a farce, had severely undermined the Mahathir administration -- and it is believed the current trial may have similar consequences for Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

The worry is that public confidence in his reformist agenda would be seriously undermined, especially with a crucial general election widely expected in the next 12 months.

Anwar and other opposition politicians allege that there are "credible speculations" that the murder could be connected to a fall out over commissions in connection with the billion-dollar purchase of two Scorpene submarines that Najib as defence minister had negotiated with France in 2002.

According to Anwar RM 540 million (157 million dollars) were paid out in commissions and among the recipients was a company owned by Baginda.

"The government must carry out a complete review of the submarine purchase and how politically connected individuals profited from it," said Lim Guan Eng, secretary general of the opposition Democratic Action Party. "The public is losing confidence," he told IPS. "The poor police investigation and unprofessional prosecution is so glaring."

Answering the various allegations, Najib's office issued a brief statement denying any links between Najib and the murdered Altantuya. "I am innocent...Allah is my witness," Najib said.

Public doubt, however, worsened after a bombshell revelation by a witness last week that the victim had shown her a photograph of herself, Baginda, Najib and "others" having lunch in a Paris restaurant.

Both defence lawyers and prosecutors cut off the witness from testifying further. Shockingly, the court too did not ask the witness, a cousin of the murdered woman, to produce the photograph -- a serious lapse according to senior criminal lawyers.

"It is shocking that the court did not ask the witness to produce the photograph --it is such a basic thing to do," said a senior criminal lawyer who declined to be named. "The failure to pursue the photograph is highly suspicious," he told IPS. "It shows political interference.'’

"Public confidence is in tatters and only a complete and in-depth probe into all the circumstances in this murder will satisfy the public," said prominent human rights lawyer Sivarasah Rasiah. "The world too is watching," he told IPS. (END/2007)



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