2 cops get death sentence

By Elizabeth Looi (The Straits Times)

SHAH ALAM – A MALAYSIAN court on Thursday sentenced two policemen to death after finding them guilty of murdering a Mongolian woman in 2006. 

High Court Judge Zaki Yasin said he found the defence of Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar 'unbelievable' after a 159-day trial.

Azilah, 33, and Sirul, 37, were found guilty of killing Ms Altantuya, 28, and blowing up her body in a jungle clearing in 2006.

They were charged in the same year with political analyst Razak Baginda, 48, who was accused of instructing them to kill the woman who was allegedly harassing him for money.

Mr Razak was acquitted last year of abetting the murder of his former lover, although the Associated Press reported that the prosecution has not said what motive the policemen could have for killing her.

The prosecution team consisting of Deputy Public Prosecutor Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah, Noorin Badaruddin, Manoj Kurup and Hanim Rashid stressed in their submissions that Azilah and Sirul were the people behind Ms Altantuya's murder.

Based on the evidence gathered from prosecution witnesses, the explosive used to blow up Ms Altantuya's body was probably placed in her mouth. Mr Manoj noted at the end of the prosecution's case that both accused had the motive to kill and it was a preplanned crime.

Mr Manoj noted that several circumstantial evidence that the prosecution tried to prove were never denied, explained or answered by both defendants. 'Several of the strong evidence deduced from the testimonies when spun together will make two ropes that are strong enough to hang each one of them.

'The prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt on the actions of the duo calls for their conviction on the murder carried out with the common intention.'

Azilah who started his testimony on Jan 15 stated that he had no motive to kill or destroy the woman and instead he only met Ms Altantuya to advise her politely not to harass Mr Razak or create a ruckus outside the latter's home. Azilah also told the court that he was ordered by a superior, DSP Musa Safri to help Mr Razak and thus he would not have done something stupid like killing and what more when he was a policeman.

While defending himself Sirul broke down a few times and related to the court that he has been made the 'sacrificial lamb' in the murder.

The two policemen's lawyers said they would file appeals. The verdict closes another chapter in a case that has riveted the nation as Ms Altantuya was said to have had an affair with a close friend of the prime minister. The friend was also tried as an accessory but was acquitted last year.