|S Pathmawathy | October 31, 2008|
The Shah Alam High Court today acquitted political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda of abetting the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Justice Mohd Zaki Md Yasin ruled that the prosecution has failed to prove a case against Abdul Razak.
“I find there is no prima facie case for him to answer his charge. He is therefore acquitted and discharged,” said Mohd Zaki.
Abdul Razak, a close associate of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak had faced the death penalty by hanging if found guilty of abetting the 2006 murder of his former lover Altantuya, whose body was blown up with explosives in a jungle clearing.
In one of the longest hearings in Malaysia’s history, the court spent 151 days hearing testimony from 84 witnesses on whether Abdul Razak and two police officers accused of carrying out the murder should face trial.
The court however ordered chief inspector Azilah Hadri, 32 and corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, 37 – from the elite Special Action Force (UTK) which guards the prime minister and deputy prime minister – to enter their defence to the charge of murder.
Both have elected to testify under oath and will take the stand on Nov 10.
The prosecution is expected to file an appeal against Abdul Razak’s acquittal.
Deputy public prosecutor Tun Majid Tun Hamzah said the decision could be contested.
“We will consider appealing the decision. The battle is not over yet,” he said.
On hearing that he could walk free, Abdul Razak, 48, hugged his wife and daughter from the dock while his elderly parents sat crying in the court.
“I just want to go home,” he said as he was escorted out through a huge media scrum at about 10.10am.
Altantuya’s father distraught over decision
Altantuya’s father Setev Shaariibuu, who has repeatedly criticised the handling of the case, was left distraught by the decision.
“I am not satisfied. My daughter knows only one Malaysian and it is Razak Baginda. Now my daughter is dead and Baginda is freed… the country has lost credibility in the (eyes of the) world,” he told reporters.
Karpal Singh, who represents the Altantuya’s family, said that based on the evidence Abdul Razak should have been called to defend himself against the accusations.
“They should not have acquitted him at this stage of the trial,” he said.
Najib, who is expected to be appointed premier next March when Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stands down, has vehemently denied any involvement in the case.
Top blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin has repeatedly linked Najib and his wife to the murder on his popular website Malaysia Today. Raja Petra was detained since last month under the tough security law for insulting Islam.
Abdullah last month defended his deputy over new allegations that Najib interfered in the case, after Malaysia Today published an SMS text message exchange purportedly between the deputy premier and Abdul Razak’s lawyer.
Altantuya, the mother of two sons aged four and 10, was allegedly shot before her body was blown up with explosives two years ago.
Azilah and Sirul 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.
Abdul Razak was charged with abetting them. He is a known confidante of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, having worked on government arms procurement projects while the latter was defence minister.
Anwar wishes Abdul Razak well
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, during the lunch break in his sodomy trial case, said that he wished Abdul Razak well.
“At the personal and family level, I wish Razak well. He is now back with the family, but the issue here revolves around the court procedure and the investigation (into the murder).
“There is growing perception that the investigation was not done professionally. There is a clear motive to cover up (the murder), a lot of evidence was not adduced.
“The prosecution has failed to conduct the case professionally from the beginning, changes were (also) made to the court and the judge.
“Now that there is more allegations involving DPM Najib – the SMSes and (other) evidence the public has raised a number of times – this case clearly is bigger (than just Abdul Razak).”
Anwar himself faces trial over sodomy allegations, which he says have been concocted by leading figures in the government because they fear he could use information on the Altantuya case to bring about their downfall.