Friday, August 23, 2013

Murder in Malaysia: AG has failed Altantuya, say lawyers

In court of public opinion, AG has failed Altantuya too, say lawyers

BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
AUGUST 23, 2013
LATEST UPDATE: AUGUST 24, 2013 07:25 AM
The Attorney-General's Chambers should explain to Malaysians its conduct in the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder trial which saw all three accused being acquitted, said criminal lawyers.
They pointed out that besides the taxpayers’ money used on this high-profile case, and the failure to secure convictions, this case also put the administration of justice in a negative light especially because it involved the murder of a foreigner.
"The perception among the public was that the trial was a sham," said lawyer Fahri Azzat.
"The public knew the two policemen would be acquitted on appeal and they were proved correct today. Even at the High Court stage the public was cynical about the way the prosecution conducted the case," Fahri said.
He questioned why material witnesses were not called to testify and documentary evidence not tendered in court.
Fahri said the public's suspicions were reinforced when political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, charged with abetting the cops, was acquitted without his defence being called.
He said that when the AG did not appeal that decision, it raised eyebrows.
"Public funds were spent over the high-profile case and the public was left wondering over the way the prosecution conducted the case," he said.
Lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad said the defence took advantage of the defects in the prosecution’s case and the trial judge’s ruling to secure the acquittal of the two policemen, Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar.
Amer said the defence raised valid and relevant issues which any defence counsel familiar with criminal procedure and law of evidence would have done.
"There was a material gap in the prosecution's case and they took advantage of that before the Court of Appeal," he said.
Amer said it is elementary for the prosecution to present material evidence to prove its case but this was not done.
Senior criminal lawyer Gurbachan Singh said today's judgment was valid.
"There was no judicial appreciation by the trial judge. He should have considered these issues and decided upon it," he said, adding that the appellate court was right in rendering the conviction unsafe due to the trial judge’s misdirection.
However, Gurbachan said the Court of Appeal was not saying that the two former policemen were innocent, but that the prosecution had not done enough to prove its case.
"Ultimately, the benefit of the doubt must be given to the accused.
"To be fair to the prosecution, the material gaps were the misdirection by the judge.
"Perhaps, the only mistake the prosecution committed was their failure to call DSP Musa Safri to the stand," added Gurbachan.
Former chief inspector Azilah managed to create doubt that he was not at the crime scene. He had also given the prosecution a notice of alibi, a requirement under the law.
In the case of former corporal Sirul, counsel Kamarul  Hisham Kamaruddin said the failure of the prosecution to call Musa, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's former aide-de-camp, left a "material gap" in the prosecution's case. – August 23, 2013.

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