Probe Altantuya’s murder and Sirul’s alleged ‘silence payment’

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Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) calls for prosecution and higher penalties for those who ordered or paid another to kill or murder.

This is abuse of power and wealth.

Merely prosecuting actual murderers or killers or criminals is not enough, as there may be occasions where the murder or crime was committed by those having to follow the orders of another or who have been paid by another to commit specific crimes.

Until the abolition of the mandatory death penalty, the accused killer gains nothing by disclosing accomplices or information about people who ordered or paid for the killing, as it does not change the fact that they are still guilty of the crime of murder and would be sentenced to death.

Even the disclosure that they were ordered or paid by another will not reduce the sentence, as there is no possibility of their sentence being mitigated for providing assistance to the authorities that will help to identify or prosecute accomplices, including those who gave the order to kill or who paid the accused to kill. The fact that they killed means they will be sentenced to death.

Mitigation of sentence

However, today, after the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Act 2023 came into force on 4 July, Section 302 of the Penal Code, which provides for the crime of murder, now reads:

Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for a term of not less than thirty years but not exceeding forty years and if not sentenced to death, shall also be punished with whipping of not less than twelve strokes.

Now that there is an alternative sentence other than death, the ability of the court to consider mitigation is restored.

The disclosure of the fact that one was paid by another to kill or ordered by another to kill is still no guarantee that the court will still not impose the death penalty, given that the accused did indeed kill.

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Most lawyers will reasonably advise clients in criminal cases to remain silent, unless the evidence they give will exonerate them from the crime totally.

Naturally, this would be the position taken at the court of first instance right until all the two appeals are exhausted. Even after that, silence could be secured by threats or even payments of money.

Probe Sirul’s ‘expose’

On 24 November Sirul Azhar Umar appeared in an Al Jazeera programme and admitted to being involved in the kidnapping of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, but denied killing her. He said he was acting on orders. He claimed the evidence against him was planted. He also alleged he received RM1m from unnamed sources for his silence on the Altantuya murder during his detention in Australia. He said a prominent politically linked lawyer and a top cabinet leader were involved in the payment.

On 24 November lawyer Hasnal Rezua Merican, now a Malaysian human rights commissioner and a recent Umno-Barisan Nasional candidate in the recent state elections, denied Sirul’s claims that he instructed the former police commando to make a video exonerating a top leader of any involvement in the murder of Altantuya.

We must recall also that Azilah Hadri, the other person convicted of Altantuya’s murder, also previously released a damning statutory declaration from Kajang Prison implicating Najib Razak.

Don’t just say ‘unfounded’

Thus, Madpet finds it appalling that the police regarded former police commando Sirul’s statement in an interview with an international media organisation, regarding his conviction in the murder of Mongolian Altantuya in 2009, as unfounded and could create more speculation.

Inspector General of Police Razarudin Husain said Sirul had been given the opportunity to defend himself in line with Malaysian laws and the Constitution. “However, his (Sirul Azhar) claims were never submitted to any court that heard his case, from the High Court to the Federal Court.”

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Sadly, this statement by the inspector general is wrong. It must be independently investigated: the police must make a police report to commence investigation and only after that make any conclusion whether it is “unfounded” or not.

Madpet believes all these allegations must be now thoroughly investigated to determine whether the two of Najib’s former bodyguards were really ordered to kill or paid by another to kill. And if so, the said giver of orders or the one who paid for the killing must be investigated and prosecuted to ensure justice is done. Was there a ‘bribe’ for silence or for the production of some ‘fake’ video?

Probe? Royal commission?

Given the police’s recent response, it may be also be apt to consider setting up an independent royal commission of inquiry to investigate this matter.

Alternatively, Suhakam, the national human rights commission, or maybe even the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission ought to inquire into the matter to determine the truth once and for all.

We also recall that current Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim told The Australian newspaper the original trial and the judges’ ruling was “compromised” and the reluctance of the judges to call relevant witnesses “made a mockery of the law”: “The best way is to proffer a new charge and allow for a full hearing of the case.”

Hopefully, the fact that Anwar after the 2022 general election needed the Barisan Nasional to form a “unity government” did not change his position on upholding the cause of justice without fear or favour.

Sirul and chief inspector Azilah were both convicted by the High Court in Malaysia in 2009 for the murder of Altantuya in October 2006.

Altantuya was shot in the head in 2006 in a forest in Puncak Alam, Selangor. Her body was later blown up with explosives.

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Their conviction in the High Court was overturned by the Court of Appeal in 2013. Sirul left for Australia.

In 2015 the Federal Court upheld the High Court’s conviction, and reinstated the death penalty on both men.

The Australian government, which has a policy against deporting anyone to a country where they would face the death penalty, refused to send Sirul back to Malaysia.

Sirul was later apprehended by Australian Immigration in January 2015. Recently, Sirul was released after spending nine years in immigration custody since 2015.

This followed an Australian High Court decision on 8 November that released about 92 detainees, including Sirul, after deciding that non-citizen detainees who cannot be deported cannot be held indefinitely by immigration authorities and were allowed to stay in Australia under specific conditions.

Madpet calls for an independent reinvestigation of the Altantuya’s murder in light of the recent revelations by Sirul with the objective of determining the truth, including whether there were other accomplices, possibly those who ordered the killing or paid another to kill.

Madpet also calls for an investigation into the alleged payment for silence.

Madpet also calls for a comprehensive investigation into all murders, to determine whether there were others liable – other than the ones who committed the crime. Justice will not be served if some escape justice simply because the police elect to end investigations once the perpetrator [admits to committing] the crime.

Madpet also calls for higher penalties to be imposed on those who ordered or paid another to commit crimes – for without these persons, the crime would never have been committed. It is an abuse of power or wealth that must never be tolerated.

Charles Hector issued this state on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet)

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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