This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on December 28, 2020 - January 3, 2021
TOO bad, too late, was the Federal Court’s essential message on Dec 8 when it denied Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri further legal recourse. Already convicted and sentenced to death on the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder in 2006, Azilah had sought a retrial of his case, even though he had already exhausted two levels of appeal.
Nonetheless, the apex court’s decision is likely to result in the never-ending speculation as to who directed two elite police officers to so brutally end the Mongolian woman’s life 14 years ago. Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar was the other officer convicted alongside Azilah.
Azilah had made a belated decision at the end of last year to affirm a statutory declaration (SD) and affidavit that claimed that then deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who later became PM, had been behind the order to kill Altantuya.
Although Najib did not manage to intervene in Azilah’s review after a five-member bench led by Chief Judge of Malaya Judge Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed dismissed the former premier’s application, the bench allowed his lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah to observe proceedings.
But what happened after that was surprising in that Azilah’s counsel J Kuldeep Kumar requested a short adjournment for the defence to make a written reply to deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Datuk Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar’s additional points, but his request was denied, as the court directed that the matter proceed.
The entire submission for the review took all of five minutes and ended with Judge Azahar asking Azilah whether he had been prevented by anyone from presenting the evidence he now affirms to be true, at his High Court trial and appeals to the Court of Appeal and, finally, to the Federal Court in late 2014.
Kuldeep for Azilah did not respond.
After a 20-minute break, Judge Azahar delivered the final verdict, sealing Azilah’s fate.
He said the court would review the case only if there are “exceptional circumstances” for it to do so, as there should be a finality to all cases.
“Whatever evidence was deliberately suppressed by Azilah from the police and court, we are of the view that the applicant has not shown injustice against him or if there is a breach of natural justice. There is no miscarriage of justice. As such, there are no exceptional circumstances for this court to grant and hence we dismiss the review application.”
Only a pardon by the Sultan of Selangor can save Azilah from the gallows now.
Shafee has indicated that Najib may file an application to expunge Azilah’s SD implicating him. The former premier had many times denied any involvement in Altantuya’s murder.
Although Sirul was also found guilty of the murder, he left for Australia before the apex court delivered its verdict in January 2015. He was subsequently detained by the Australians and is now being held at an immigration centre in Sydney.
Both Azilah and Sirul were convicted of murdering Altantuya on top of a hill in a forest in Mukim Bukit Raja, between 10pm on Oct 18 and 1am on Oct 19, 2006. Political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda was charged with abetment in the murder, but he was acquitted by the High Court in 2009 without his defence being called.
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