Top Malaysia court sentences 2 to death for Mongolian murder
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s top court on Tuesday sentenced two police officers to death by hanging, after overturning their acquittal by a lower court over the killing of a Mongolian woman who had an affair with a friend of the prime minister.
The verdict ended an eight-year saga surrounding the high-profile case that the opposition has repeatedly sought to link to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The officers were the only suspects found guilty of shooting Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006 and blowing up her body with military explosives. Opposition leaders have repeatedly said that Najib must have had a role in approving the killing, but the prime minister has denied any links.
A High Court judge in 2009 sentenced the officers to be hanged, but the Court of Appeals acquitted them in 2013.
Prosecutor Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah said a five-member Federal Court panel unanimously ruled Tuesday that the prosecution had proven its case and that the Court of Appeals was wrong in reversing the findings of the trial court.
“The Federal Court has sentenced them to death,” he said.
The prosecution had contended that the murder of Shaariibuu, 28, was ordered by her former lover Abdul Razak Baginda, a prominent defense analyst, after their affair ended.
The High Court in 2008 acquitted Abdul Razak, a married man and a former confidante of Prime Minister Najib, of charges of abetting the murder.
Abdul Razak has said that Shaariibuu kept pestering him for money and threatened to go public with their affair, prompting him to seek help from the two police officers, who worked for an elite unit assigned to VIP security.
The two officers acknowledged picking up Shaariibuu from outside Abdul Razak’s house. The prosecution alleged they took her to a jungle clearing and killed her.
Both officers denied murdering her. One of them, Azilah Hadri, said he handed Shaariibuu over to his colleague, Sirul Azhar Umar, and never saw her again. During the trial, Sirul said he was “just a scapegoat who has to be sacrificed to cover up the ill intentions of those who were not in court.”
Tun Abdul Majid, the prosecutor, said he had obtained a warrant of arrest for Sirul, who failed to appear in court Tuesday. He said the two men can appeal to the state sultan for a pardon to commute their death sentence to imprisonment.