Justice for Altantuya must be done. But then again, what will the decision be?
( God, I’m praying that it would NOT be a kangaroo judgement!! )
The Shah Alam High Court will decide tomorrow if three individuals have to enter their defence to a charge of murdering Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.
She was allegedly shot before her body was blown up with explosives two years ago.
In the dock are Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, 32 and Corporal Sirul Azha Umar, 37, who are members of the Special Action Force (UTK), an elite police unit.
They are jointly charged with murdering Altantuya, 28, at a location between Lot 12843 and Lot 16735 in Mukim Bukit Raja, Selangor between 10am on Oct 19, 2006 and 1am the following day.
Prominent political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, 47, is charged with abetting them. He is a known confidante to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, having worked on government arms procurement projects while the latter was defence minister.
The prosecution closed its case against the trio on June 23 after 151 days of testimony from 84 witnesses.
Justice Mohd Zaki Md Yasin will decide tomorrow if the prosecution has succeeded in making a prima facie case. In doing so, he will rely on some 6,000 pages of notes of proceedings and written submissions.
Blood, jewelry and explosives
DPP Tun Majid Tun Hamzah, in his submission at the end of the prosecution case in August, argued that there was enough circumstantial evidence that Azilah and Sirul were together at the murder scene.
He further pointed towards other evidence including the deceased’s blood-stained slippers that were found in Sirul Azha’s vehicle and her jewelry that was found in his house.
Tun Majid (right) also submitted that the explosive residue from the murder scene was similar to explosives used by the UTK.
Should Justice Mohd Zaki rule that Azilah, Sirul and Abdul Razak have to enter their defence, the trio will have the opportunity to testify.
But if the judge rules otherwise, they are likely to be acquitted and discharged. They have been held at the Sungai Buloh prison since they were charged in November 2006.
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 — Tomorrow’s verdict on whether the defence will be called in the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder trial will be politically explosive and its ramifications will be felt beyond the four walls of the Shah Alam High Court.
The verdict, whichever way it goes, is set to hang like a dreadful cloud over the nation because of the political consequences and the intense speculation it has already sparked.
It also comes as the Umno election campaign is in full swing and a succession formula is under way where Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is to hand over power to his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Razak by March 2009.
Najib’s connection to the characters in the case is seriously denting his image and will cloud the upcoming government he is set to head although he has strenuously denied any connection with the murdered victim.
His swearing on the Quran that he did not know Altantuya, the opposition says, is no excuse for the authorities not to investigate and clear his name before he occupies the country’s highest office.
The political impact of the murder, the subsequent trial and the upcoming verdict have had no parallel in the criminal justice system.
Even the trial of Datuk Mokhtar Hashim, the minister charged with murder in the 1980s, pales in political significance compared to the Altantuya case.
One reason is the controversies and simple inconsistencies that have dogged the Altantuya case since Day One.
Some of the key people — the accused, victim, witnesses, prosecutors and even the defence team — have one way or other been linked or connected with the ruling, entrenched political establishment.
Controversies marred the case from the very beginning when the prosecutors were changed at the eleventh hour, when witnesses were not probed for political connections and when key witnesses such as private investigator P. Balakrishnan were not recalled to testify.
PI Bala’s fiery sworn testimony accusing Najib of having an affair with Altantuya, the subsequent retraction and the court’s refusal to give legal weight to the incident only added to the cloud surrounding the trial.
After retracting his accusation, PI Bala vanished, leaving a mystery that remains unresolved to this day.
While Abdul Razak Baginda, the political analyst and close confidante of Najib, is facing an abetment charge, Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar are charged with committing the murder.
They face the death penalty if convicted.
It is left to High Court judge Datuk Mohd Zaki Md Yasin, after a trial lasting 151 days and 84 prosecution witnesses, to decide.
He can free one or all. He can also order one or all to enter their defence.
But the controversies that have dogged the trial will not end with the verdict but will take years, if ever, to die down.