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IHT: Politics shadows murder trial in Malaysia June 4, 2007

Posted by elizabethwong in Current Affairs, Malaysia, Politics.
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Before Zul Nordin was replaced as one of the defendant’s lawyer.

International Herald Tribune

Politics shadows murder trial in Malaysia

Friday, June 1, 2007

KUALA LUMPUR: Since November, when the charred remains of a jet-setting young Mongolian were discovered in a patch of jungle outside this modern capital, her mysterious murder has captivated the political elite here, not least because prosecutors say she was killed by commandos assigned to the second most powerful man in the country, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak.

With the trial set to begin Monday, Malaysians hope a basic but still elusive question will be answered: who was behind the murder in October of Altantuya Shaariibuu, 28, and why?

The trial is perhaps the most high-profile case in Malaysia since Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister, was charged with sodomy and corruption almost a decade ago, and was beaten by the chief of police while in detention.

Like the Anwar trial, the inquiry into Shaariibuu’s murder has raised questions about the transparency and thoroughness of this country’s judicial system and about the practices of the Malaysian police. One of the bodyguards charged with murdering Shaariibuu bragged that he had killed “between 6 and 10 people,” according to an affidavit submitted in a pre-trial hearing.

Three men have been charged in the case: the two bodyguards and Abdul Razak Baginda, an adviser to the deputy prime minister, who is accused of aiding and abetting the killing of Shaariibuu, who he says was his mistress. They face death by hanging if convicted.

Shaariibuu was a part-time model who spoke English, Russian and Mandarin, according to local media reports. She was shot and her body destroyed with explosives, the police say. Malaysians have speculated for months as to whether her murder was the result of a lover’s quarrel or part of a more sinister and far-reaching cover-up involving high-level government officials.

“We are interested to know whether there is any political link to the murder,” said Zulkifli Noordin, a lawyer representing Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, one of the bodyguards. “Why were all the people involved linked to No. 2?” he asked, referring to Najib.

Zulkifli said he would explore Shaariibuu’s role in the purchase of French submarines by Malaysia in 2002.

“She may have been involved as the interpreter in the arms deal between the French company and the Defense Ministry,” Zulkifli said. “We want to see whether there are any links.”

Zulkifli also plans to call Najib to the stand to inquire about meetings the deputy prime minister held with his client, he said.

One defense lawyer is skeptical that the court will explore possible motives for the murder.

“Motive is a very interesting question,” said Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin, a lawyer representing the other bodyguard charged, Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar. “But it is irrelevant here if they have physical evidence that three people have done it.”

Prosecutors, Kamarul predicts, will focus narrowly on the actual killing. Under Malaysian law, which resembles British or American legal tradition on this point, prosecutors need not show motive to get a conviction.

“It may be a trial where everything is said and done but nothing is answered,” Kamarul said.

Outside the courtroom, some analysts here see the case as a proxy battle for Malaysia’s top political job, currently held by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. It is likely to stoke a long-standing rivalry between Najib, who as deputy prime minister is the heir apparent to the job of prime minister, and Anwar, the former deputy prime minister who was released from prison in 2004 and is seeking to make a political comeback.

More than anyone in Malaysia, Anwar has publicly urged a broader investigation into the purchase of the French submarines, allegations of kickbacks in that deal and the role that Shaariibuu may have played.

“The issue is who gave the instructions?” Anwar said in an interview this year. “If the instructions to the commandos were to finish off this girl and any traces because she was a threat to national security, what then is the status of the murder?”

Anwar says he is skeptical that the police can conduct a fair investigation into a killing that involves Najib’s bodyguards. He called for an independent inquiry.

“There’s a political damage exercise here,” said Sankara Nair, a Malaysian lawyer not involved with the trial. “Anwar is throwing a small political bomb into Najib’s camp.”

Anwar’s most forceful allegation is that the deputy prime minister’s bodyguards, some of whom are members of a special commando force, only act on orders from the top.

“Their duty is like the Secret Service – to protect,” Anwar said. “That’s why questions must be raised.”

Najib has said little about the trial, except that he never met Shaariibuu and that he wants to let the investigation and trial take their course.

But a spokesman for Najib responded angrily to Anwar’s allegations.

“This is a not a banana republic!” said the spokesman, Sariffuddin Ahmad, adding that Anwar was basically accusing Najib of ordering the killing.

“He’s trying to politicize the trial,” Sariffuddin said of Anwar. “We should wait for the trial to start and separate fact from myth.”

Lawyers say the trial could last longer than two months. With appeals, a final verdict may not be known for years. It is also possible that the judge or the attorney general could reduce the charges against the three men, a scenario favored by at least one defense lawyer.

“We are prepared to go for a lesser charge,” said Zulkifli, speaking for his client. Zulkifli said he had already submitted a plea of manslaughter to the attorney general, a charge that carries a 20-year sentence.

“There has been no reply,” he said.

Asked whether the plea was not an admission of guilt, Zulkifli said: “At least it doesn’t carry a capital offense.”

The most detailed public account of the circumstances surrounding the murder so far has come from Abdul Razak, who, in an unusual move, submitted an affidavit in January detailing his relationship with Shaariibuu, as part of an unsuccessful attempt to secure bail.

For years Abdul Razak, 47, was a suave, globetrotting policy adviser to Najib, and the head of the Malaysian Strategic Research Center, a research organization. He has a wife and daughter.

In the affidavit, which was widely reported in the Malaysian media, Abdul Razak described an illicit affair that turned ugly. He said Shaariibuu had tried to blackmail him and that, after he gave her tens of thousands of dollars, she continued to harass him.

Last October, he said, he called contacts inside Najib’s office and told them of his problem. It was at this point, Abdul Razak alleges, that Azilah, the head of Najib’s security team, boasted to him that he had killed numerous people and that he could “finish off the girl.” Abdul Razak said he begged him not to do “anything untoward.”

Zulkifli, Azilah’s lawyer, denies that his client ever bragged of killing people: “There was never any statement made by my client to that effect.”

According to Abdul Razak, on Oct. 19, Shaariibuu showed up at his house. He called Azilah, who arrived, forced her into a car and took her away. Prosecutors say she was killed outside Kuala Lumpur between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.

The trial will determine whether this version of events holds up. But a fuller picture of who Shaariibuu was and how deeply she was involved in government contracts or other political dealings may wait for another day.

“There is going to be this question at the end of the trial: Why on earth would these two people do that?” Kamarul said. “That question needs answering. At least from the point of view of the public.”

Comments»

1. WATTAHACK? - June 4, 2007

will justice be served? sometimes even with enough evidence the victim might not still get justice. end of the day its the learned judge that will say who gets justice.

2. monsterball - June 4, 2007

Even the most reputable and respected age old British paper..Herald Trebune is talking about the murder case.You bet the whole world is watching…as this is even more important than Anwar case. This indirectly suspect Najib is involved…as Herald Trebune do not care to write nonsense…mentioning Najib is suspected….very important case for the world…as those that are dealing with our Deputy…. they want to know the real truths too.


EW: Monty, IHT is not a British paper. If I’m not mistaken, its HQ is in Paris.

3. monsterball - June 4, 2007

Is that so? Thanks Liz. Than.. it must have been older than Britian…after all…the French gave the British people freedom..or else.. no Britian……hahahahaha

4. WATTAHACK? - June 4, 2007

monty you jumped the gun again….LOL 😉

5. eng - June 5, 2007

Reading the posts here and those in BigDog is like in a completely different times.

You and SusanL are pretty much posting blogs that make someone can’t help thinking/ asking loads of questions on things, that leads one to think from the angle of conspiracy / puppet master at the background and stuff. Well no one will know if it is right or wrong until someone somewhere says ‘yes i recv a call from xxx asked me to…’. I am not saying that this thinking is right/wrong but to be honest I enjoy reading these kinda stuff and i personally believe it does happen in Malaysia (after seeing how other court cases being handled). I personally don’t have too much of faith in our court system and I guess many ppl too. And these are one of the main reason why i read blogs instead of TheStar/NST etc.

There is something i’ve noticed since the Rocky and Jeff’s suit, is that they seem to cut down (or almost to not existence) on these. Jeff used to mention a lot about kairy / rafidah / pm, those powerful hands behind the scene. But not anymore after the law suit. It is true that once a blogger gets ‘publicise’ (or famous? may not be the best word) they can no longer blog ‘what they suspect’ ? or ‘what they think may have happened’ puzzled from bit and pieces of information??

As for the BigDog… well .. he is very much sticking to the idea that shut up and follow the court. Let the trial find the truth and the murderer and punish the ppl involved. I completely agree with him. These are the things that PM or any existing Ministers would say on the newspaper. I don’t need to go to blog to find that out. But he doesn’t blog what in his mind, that’s why i find his post about Altantuya too dry to my liking. It was too political and that sort of things where a mgr would say in a corperate meeting. Is it because he can’t compromise his position as pro UMNO ?
I agree on his view sometimes as he could give an alternative view (pro umno view) on the alternative views out there (if you understand what i mean). But i disagree with him that it is wrong to discuss who may be involved in the case or asking that question or link it to corruption or mob or etc etc.
If a logical link could be establish, why not? Why can’t a person ask ‘is DPM involved?’ as the killer worked for him. Furthurmore he is our DPM representing our country.
Why can’t we question where they get the C4? since it’s only found in military?
Why can’t we question why the female policewomen is not charged? as she is said to be somoewhat involved
etc etc
Malaysia is in need of these thinkings, these alternative thinkings so to put pressure on those who are actually carry out the system. A system will not work (sustain) without an alternative voice to drive improvement.
I can’t imagine what would happen, if everybody (everyone) just quietly watching the whole series take place in the court without thinking further or suspecting anything at all?
Will it bring ppl’s interest to in? would it be that high profile case at all? or just like a normal case of a poor guy got mistreated in police cell where he never get justice done for years ?

ok i think i have said enough :-p it;s time for me to leave ‘work’

btw… i have also noticed some SusanL bashing, i am not part of blogger’s united and stuff… is there something fishy going on between part of bloggers VS Susan L?

has someone successfully started something (behind the scene) to dismentle malaysia blogger’s unity instead of registering them?

6. monsterball - June 5, 2007

WATTAHACK……What do you mean I jump to the gun? Please explain.

7. monsterball - June 5, 2007

WATTAHACK……You use the word ‘again’….meaning few times…what is it?

8. wits0 - June 5, 2007

Eng, Big Gum fake canine got deleted from Susan’s Blog comment and he’s apparently fuming ever since. Proponent of the STFU ideology is unlikely to be admired much in the Blogosphere for obvious reasons.

The whole thrust of uniting Bloggers in the manner proposed by that side is going to be a divisive one in the end. Like the old China propensity of “cheng pai” and “cheh pai”. Some people wants to be under the distinctly “cheng pai’s” standing and it’s as if this is attainable without slipping into apologistic political correctness. The fake assumption of “kwai chai” vs “wai chai” must follow.

9. eng - June 5, 2007

wits0

cheers…

10. WATTAHACK? - June 5, 2007

EW: Monty, IHT is not a British paper. If I’m not mistaken, its HQ is in Paris.

i meant this lor…

11. monsterball - June 6, 2007

So can I presume you have nothing to write…but repeat what Liz said to me…just to write something….wattahack?

12. WATTAHACK? - June 6, 2007

So can I presume you have nothing to write…but repeat what Liz said to me…just to write something….wattahack? yes

13. monsterball - June 8, 2007

hahahahahahaha…You are a joker!

14. nayagan - July 5, 2007

Yes, why not pin the sb guy. bring the crime scene team to investigate how the murder took place. explosives, grill the p.i, grill Abdul Razak Baginda, grill the sb guy.
sure you will get an ans. Of course, get to the bottom of it w/o favour.


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