Is Altantuya killer Sirul on the loose or locked up in Australia?


(Malay Mail Online) – Conflicting news reports have emerged over the status of former police commando Sirul Azhar Umar who is wanted here for the 2006 murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.

According to an article on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) website yesterday, the 43-year-old Sirul who was convicted and sentenced to hang earlier this month by Malaysia’s highest court is now being held at the  maximum-security Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney.

ABC News also reported Sirul had been living with family members west of Brisbane when he was detained by Australian immigration officials.

Local news portal Malayskiakini, also cited an official from the Australian Immigration and Border Protection Department as confirming Sirul to still be under detention.

“This individual remains in immigration detention. We are unable to provide any further information,” the unnamed Australian immigration official was quoted saying yesterday.

If true, this would contradict Wisma Putra’s statement saying that Australian authorities have released Sirul, but have withheld his passport.

Yesterday, local daily New Straits Times quoted an unnamed official from Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry as saying that Australian authorities have released Sirul but were still keeping him under surveillance.

“His passport is being held, but Australian Immigration released him on certain conditions, including having to come forward if required by the authorities there,” the anonymous spokesman was quoted saying.

Another local daily, The Star reported that Sirul’s lawyer, Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin, saying he knows where his client is being detained by Australia, and will decide on the next course of action in a week’s time.

However, Kamarul reportedly said he was unsure if Sirul was being held by Australian immigration or under its police custody.

He also refused to comment on reports that Sirul has now been released.

“The reports on an extradition request for my client are also uncertain,” Kamarul was quoted as saying.

He confirmed that he was still representing Sirul.

International news wire AFP reported on Thursday Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying that Malaysian police have formally requested Australia to extradite Sirul, who was detained by Australian immigration officials in Brisbane on Wednesday after global law enforcement agency Interpol issued a red notice.

Sirul and former chief Inspector Azilah Hadri were charged with the murder of 28-year-old Altantuya in 2006 and convicted in 2009.

They were freed after the appellate court acquitted them in 2013, but last week, the Federal Court reversed the acquittal and sent them back to hang, marking the end to the eight-year saga.

Sirul was a no-show during the Federal Court hearing, however, and it was later revealed that he was in Australia and was unable to return due to a lack of funds.

Last Thursday, Australian paper Sydney Morning Herald reported an unnamed Australian Attorney-General’s Department spokesman as saying that Australia’s extradition legislation prohibited someone from being sent back to another country for an offence punishable by death, unless that country pledged not to carry out a death sentence.

In Malaysia, a mandatory death sentence is imposed for murder and drug trafficking offences, while Australia opposes capital punishment.