Updated at 4.45pm, 9 April 2009
SHAH ALAM, 9 April 2009: The Shah Alam High Court today sentenced Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar to death by hanging after they were found guilty of murdering Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Justice Datuk Mohd Zaki Md Yasin, in finding the two guilty, said the prosecution had proven the case against them beyond reasonable doubt.
He said their defences were essentially ones of denial and of blaming each other and as such, were irreconcilable and unbelievable.
“Thus they have failed to raise any reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case which I find to be irresistibly conclusive on account of the physical and circumstantial evidence adduced before me.
“I therefore now sentence you, Azilah and Sirul Azhar, to death and both of you will henceforth be kept in lawful custody until you are brought to a lawful place where you will be hung by the neck until you are dead,” he said.
Azilah and Sirul Azhar are charged with murdering Altantuya, 28, between Lot 12843 and Lot 16735 Mukim Bukit Raja near here between 10pm on 19 Oct 2006 and 1am on 20 Oct 2006.
Azilah, 33, and Sirul Azhar, 37, were called to enter their defence on 31 Oct 2008. Azilah testified in his defence from the witness stand while Sirul Azhar read out his written testimony from the dock. No other defence witnesses were called.
Before this, they were tried together with Malaysian Strategic Research Centre executive director, Abdul Razak Abdullah Baginda, 48, who was charged with abetment.
However, on 31 Oct 2008, the political analyst was acquitted and discharged without his defence being called after the prosecution failed to make out a prima facie case against him.
In his judgment, Mohd Zaki said Azilah’s defence by way of his sole evidence on oath was essentially that he did not utter the statements relating to the scene, which were admitted as evidence of discovery of facts, and that he was not at the scene of the crime at the relevant dates and times.
“He claimed that he was somewhere in Wangsa Maju as per his notice of alibi and that he was not the last person to be with Altantuya for he had handed over Altantuya on the night in question to the second accused (Sirul Azhar) to send the deceased back to Hotel Malaya.
He said Sirul Azhar’s defence by way of his statement from the dock was that he was the “scapegoat”.
Sirul Azhar also claimed that he did not utter all the statements relating to Altantuya’s personal belongings, that he was not at the scene of crime, that Altantuya had never been handed over to him by Azilah to be sent back to Hotel Malaya, the judge said.
The prosecution team comprised deputy public prosecutors Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah, Noorin Badaruddin, Manoj Kurup and Hanim Rashid while Azilah was represented by counsel Datuk Hazman Ahmad and J Kuldeep Kumar and Sirul Azhar by counsel Hasnal Redzua Marican, Ahmad Zaidi Zainal and Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin.
Meanwhile, Azilah’s fiancee, Nur Azila Baharuddin, told reporters outside the court that Azilah’s family members in Sarawak were sad when informed of the verdict because they had expected him to be freed.
She said she hoped that Azilah would be freed on appeal to the Court of Appeal and Federal Court.
Asked about their plans for the future, she said: “There are no plans but we want to get married after waiting for so long. We have known each other since 2004 and have been engaged since 2006.”
Mongolian honorary consul in Malaysia Datuk Syed Abdul Rahman Al-Habshi who also met the reporters, said he had contacted Altantuya’s father, Dr Setev Shaariibuu to inform him of the verdict.
Setev was relieved and happy with the verdict and wanted to know what follow-up action the defence was taking, he said.
Asked why Setev was absent today, he said Setev was not well and was also confused by international media reports which said that the judgment date had been postponed.
Tun Majid said: “It is a fair decision for us. Our colleagues had been working very hard for the past couple of years.”
However, he said, the case was not over until the judgment was upheld by the Federal Court because it could be brought on appeal to the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. — Bernama