Altantuya murder case: Court overturns guilty verdict

Altantuya murder case: Court overturns guilty verdict
Policemen Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar arrive at the courthouse in Shah Alam outside Kuala Lumpur.

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia - The Court of Appeal has discharged and acquitted two policemen from the charge of murdering Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu seven years ago.

The three-man panel, chaired by Justice Mohamed Apandi Ali, spared Special Action Unit members Kpl Sirul Azhar Umar and C/Insp Azilah Hadri from the gallows by unanimously setting aside the death sentences imposed on them by the Shah Alam High Court in 2009.

Justices Linton Albert, Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Apandi ruled yesterday that the cumulative effect of the non-directions by the trial judge had "rendered the conviction and sentence unsafe".

"Thus, we set aside the High Court's judgment, and accordingly acquit and discharge the two appellants," said Justice Tengku Maimun, reading from the four-page summary judgment.

Family members and supporters of Sirul Azhar and Azilah, were overjoyed by the decision, hugging each other while the court was still in proceedings.

However, the Special Action Unit members remained stoic when the judgment was read.

The panel concluded that the trial judge had erred by not examining whether the contradictions and inconsistencies in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses were material.

In regards to the use of an explosive, the judges noted that after linking it to the death of Altantuya, the trial judge should have made a further finding to connect it to the appellants.

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