Tue, Jun 19, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Trial begins in Malaysian murder scandal


A Malaysian political analyst ordered police to kill a former lover who was harassing him, the prosecution said in a politically-charged murder trial that opened yesterday.

Altantuya Shaariibuu, 28, was killed by "blast-related" injuries, the court heard on the first day of Abdul Razak Baginda's trial for abetting the murder.

Lead prosecutor Tun Majid Tun Hamzah said that Abdul Razak, 47, abetted two police officers "in planning and giving instructions so that the deceased was killed."

Abdul Razak is a close associate of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has vehemently denied any involvement in the case.

Tun Majid said the policemen, Azilah Hadri, 30, and Sirul Azhar Umar, 35, "carried out the killing" and a confession from Sirul will be among the evidence.

The officers are members of a special unit that guards the country's leaders.

Prosecutors intend to prove that a car owned by Azilah was used to take Altantuya, a single mother from Mongolia, to the murder scene in Shah Alam district southwest of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, Tun Majid said.

In an eight-page statement opening the trial, Tun Majid said Abdul Razak and Altantuya met in 2004 and had a relationship, during which he gave her money.

After their relationship ended in 2005, he gave her money whenever she demanded, until last year, the prosecution alleged.

Tun Majid said she was not satisfied and went on to hire a private investigator to find his home. He said she came to Malaysia last October, and left notes demanding cash and asking to meet him.

In one note, she threatened his child if he refused to help her financially, the prosecutor said.

Abdul Razak hired his own private eye, but then later ignored the investigator's advice that he arrange for Altantuya to be deported, Tun Majid said.

Instead, Abdul Razak turned to a high-ranking police officer for advice, who introduced him to Azilah, Tun Majid said.

He said evidence will place the two accused officers in the lobby of the Hotel Malaya where Altantuya was staying after traveling to Kuala Lumpur with two other Mongolian women.

Tun Majid said a worried Altantuya filed a report with the police. If anything happened to her, she said, officers should look for someone named "Razak Baginda," according to the allegations.

The prosecutor said witness statements, closed circuit television and telephone conversations will prove the plan between the three accused to kill her on the night of Oct. 19.

A pair of blood-stained slippers were found in Sirul's car, and DNA testing confirmed the blood was from Altantuya, he said.

All three accused face the death penalty if convicted.

Abdul Razak, who heads the Malaysian Strategic Research Center think tank, arrived at court encircled by police.

Abdul Razak's wife, Mazlinda Makhzan, wore a white T-shirt proclaiming she is his wife, "And proud of it."

"I pray to Allah for right to be done," she said.

The case was to start on June 4 but when the court opened Tun Majid immediately asked for a delay. He said he had only been assigned to the case the day before.

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail later said he ordered the change to ensure a fair trial after the previous lawyer was seen playing badminton with the judge.

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