Sunday, November 02, 2008

RAZAK BAGINDA: Saved by his affidavit

Saved by his affidavit

Abdul Razak's tell-all document before trial, detailing key events, turns out to be an astute move

By Carolyn Hong, Malaysia Bureau Chief

Mr Abdul Razak outside his house after his acquittal on Friday. With him is his daughter Rowena and an unidentified man. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Kuala Lumpur - The acquittal of political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda in the high-profile murder case of his former Mongolian lover made big headlines in Malaysian newspapers yesterday, with many zooming in on how his affidavit had saved him.

The sleazy and sensational affair, and Mr Abdul Razak's close ties to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, had kept the case in the public eye as the trial ran for two years.

His almost-forgotten affidavit filed two years ago was the highlight as it was pivotal to the High Court judge's decision to acquit him of abetting the murder.

The document was filed in court in an attempt by Mr Abdul Razak, 48, to obtain bail before the trial started. He failed to get bail and there was criticism then by legal experts who considered it a wrong move to disclose his case so early in the trial.

But it turned out to be an astute move. High Court judge Mohamed Zaki Mohamed Yasin on Friday ruled that the tell-all affidavit had helped clear him of the charge of asking two policemen to kill Ms Altantuya Shaariibuu.

'In the absence of the rebuttal evidence against them (statements in the affidavit), coupled with the fact that there is no legal onus for him to rebut any statutory presumption, there is clearly no reason for the statements to be ignored and rejected,' the judge said.

The lengthy document detailed how Mr Abdul Razak met Ms Altantuya in 2004, and had an affair with her that lasted until 2005.

After they broke up, he alleged that the 28-year-old interpreter harassed him, and that he had sought the help of the police. But he denied telling them to kill her.

According to court evidence, Ms Altantuya's remains were found in a jungle outside Kuala Lumpur, blown up with explosives after she was shot dead.

The judge found that 13 statements in the affidavit were not rebutted by evidence put forward by prosecutors. In a nutshell, they recounted how Mr Abdul Razak had asked Mr Musa Safri, a security aide of the deputy premier, for help because of Ms Altantuya's harassment.

Mr Musa reportedly said he would introduce him to a police officer. The co-accused Azilah Hadri, an officer from an elite unit that guards VVIPs, called Mr Abdul Razak the next day.

Mr Abdul Razak said he called Azilah on Oct 19, 2006, when Ms Altantuya turned up at his house.

Ms Altantuya was taken away by three police officers. Mr Abdul Razak said he subsequently asked Mr Musa what had happened to Ms Altantuya but the aide said Azilah did not tell him.

The judge on Friday found these statements were corroborated by witnesses at the trial, and 'clearly negated and nullified the act of abetment as alleged'.

This detailed legal explanation was, however, described by veteran opposition politician Lim Kit Siang as a technical one, as he demanded further investigation.

The immediate public reaction on the Internet was, as expected, similar. Mr Abdul Razak's close ties to DPM Najib were hauled out to hint at favoured treatment although there was no evidence of this.

Mr Lim wrote in his blog that it was imperative for Mr Najib to face an independent government inquiry on the allegations.

So far, Mr Abdul Razak has not given his side of the story. After his acquittal, he went back to his house in upmarket Damansara Heights before going to the mosque for Friday prayers.

He wore broad smiles each time he came out of the house, but declined to speak to reporters. He was quoted by The Star daily as saying he would speak to the press only this week.

He also said he had been fasting for the 22 months since he was arrested.

His two co-accused, Azilah and Sirul Azhar Umar, who allegedly killed Ms Altantuya, have been ordered to present their defence. The hearing will begin on Nov 10.

Saved by his affidavit
Straits Times, Singapore

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ALTANTUYA MURDER TRIAL: I'm grateful to God, says Razak
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ALTANTUYA MURDER TRIAL: I expected verdict, says Shaariibuu
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