Altantuya trial judge erred, ex-cops should never have been convicted, rules Court of Appeal

V. Anbalagan, TMI

The two former policemen convicted for the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu should have been acquitted at the trial stage. This was the finding of the three-man Court of Appeal bench which said the prosecution was aware that the trial judge had failed to thoroughly analyse the evidence in the trial of Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar.

The prosecution had wanted the Court of Appeal to correct the defects to sustain the conviction but the three-man bench was not convinced.

Judge Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who wrote the grounds, said the prosecution had conceded that there were various non-directions by the trial judge, Mohd Zaki Md Yassin, and urged the three-man bench to use a provision in the Court of Judicature Act 1964 to cure the defects.

In exceptional cases, she said, an appellate court could uphold a conviction despite the misdirection.

“However, looking at the whole evidence and circumstances of this case, we are of the view that this is not a fit and proper case for us to invoke the proviso,” she said.

Tengku Maimun said the circumstances relied upon by the prosecution had not been fully and cogently established and the chain of evidence was not complete.

“We cannot say if a reasonable tribunal properly directed, would have convicted the appellants (Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar) on available evidence.

“The court below had ignored and overlooked salient facts and evidence favourable to the appellants which resulted in serious and substantial miscarriage of justice to the appellants,” she said.

She said the cumulative effect of these non-directions rendered the convictions of the appellants unsafe.

Tengku Maimun also said that the prosecution’s case relied on circumstantial evidence.

“It is our judgment that the circumstantial evidence are insufficient and not strong enough to sustain the finding of guilt,” she said.