Amid current crisis, Al Jazeera revives tale of Altantuya murder

File photo of ex-policemen Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar (heads covered) at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya on August 23, 2013. — File pic
File photo of ex-policemen Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar (heads covered) at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya on August 23, 2013. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — News network Al Jazeera has published a sensational investigation into the 2006 murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu that alludes to “massive cover-ups” by senior Malaysian officials, at a time when Putrajaya is under pressure over a separate corruption controversy.

The episode of Al Jazeera’s “101 East” series largely revisits already established details of the murder and does not appear to include new information of note, but features dramatic re-enactments of key moments of the case including the murder to the Mongolian by two former police commandos.

Despite reproducing existing information, the programme does introduce a new alleged killer in the convoluted murder saga: Razak Baginda, Altantuya’s former lover and ex-aide to Datuk Seri Najib Razak when the latter was still deputy prime minister.

Hosted by Mary Ann Jolley, the allegations of attempts by Putrajaya to cover up investigations into the case appear to be predicated on her deportation while in the midst of preparing the particular episode.

“It obviously shows the sensitivity of the story, and I’ve obviously come under the spotlight,” Jolley said in a self-recorded clip for the segment, after she was stopped from entering Malaysia following a meeting with Setev Shaariibuu, Altantuya’s father, in Hong Kong for the programme.

“Clearly, I’ve hit a raw nerve,” Jolley added as she was deported to Sydney, Australia.

Other parts of the programme include interviews with key personalities of the case who were supportive of claims that there was a cover-up, including Setev and his lawyer, Ramkarpal Singh, as well as Americk Sidhu who had represented the late P. Balasubramiam or “PI Bala”.

Balasubramaniam had made two controversial statutory declarations in 2008 that formed the basis of links between Najib and the Altantutya case.

Also featured in the episode titled “Murder in Malaysia” were old video clips from the trial as well as other interviews with individuals who were not directly involved.

Late in the clip, Jolley interviews a purported Australian “relative” of Sirul Azhar Umar, one of two police commandos convicted of Altantuya’s murder.

Christened as “Frank” by Jolley, the person goes on to claim that Sirul told him that Razak was the person who shot and killed Altantuya in 2006.

Razak declined to be interviewed, but rubbished Sirul’s claims as recounted by “Frank”.

The Prime Minister’s Office similarly declined Jolley’s request for interviews for her episode, but reiterated Najib’s previous denials of any acquaintance with Altantuya.

“The prime minister did not know, has never met, has never had any communication with and has no link whatsoever with the deceased.

“The two convicted individuals were not the prime minister's personal guards. This allegation is intentionally misleading, and has been used to perpetuate baseless conspiracy theories,” it said in a statement to Al Jazeera.

Sirul and Azilah Hadri, another former police commando, were both sentenced to death in January this year for the 2006 murder after the Federal Court reversed their previous acquittal.

Sirul was a no-show during the sentencing, however, and it was later revealed that he had fled to Australia to live with his kin.

He is currently being detained by Australian Immigration pursuant to Malaysia’s request for extradition, which Australia cannot legally comply with owing to the country’s laws against capital punishment.

The Altantuya scandal was among the reasons former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad gave earlier this year to explain his demand for Najib’s resignation as prime minister, although he has now shifted his focus to 1Malaysia Development Bhd as his main platform to press for Najib’s exit.

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