By Lam Choong Wah
Was the appellate court doing the right thing?
The two ex-police personnel who were accused as the main culprits in Altantuya Shaariibuu’s murder case were acquitted unanimously by the Court of Appeal’s three-member bench on Aug 23.
The news spread like shockwave across the country. Not only did the verdict disappoint many Malaysians, but it also generated countless condemnations in the social media sphere.
Who killed Altantuya? This question has flooded the social media. So if it is not former chief inspector Azilah Hadri and former corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, who else? As a result of this verdict, some people are questioning the credibility of the court.
Contrary to public opinion, I think the three-member bench had done the right thing, and their judgment could compel the prosecutors to carry out more in-depth investigation on this case.
There were several ambiguities that were pin-pointed by the three-member bench, which should be answered by the prosecutors:
1. The whole case was full of flaws that could easily be used by the defence counsel to counter accusations made by the prosecutors. One of the best examples was the fact that the prosecutors were reluctant to investigate the intention of causing Altantuya’s death.
In any culpable murder case, as defined by Section 300 of the Penal Code, proving the murder intention of the accused is a must for the prosecutors. Otherwise, the accused can only be charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 of the Penal Code and the punishment upon conviction is only imprisonment.
2. The prosecutors weren’t interested to find out where the C4 explosives came from. Why were the prosecutors not interested in the most important evidence?
3. The court and prosecutors had never subpoenaed Najib Abdul Razak’s chief bodyguard DSP Musa Safri, or even Najib himself to testify. Without their testimony, one is unable to clarify whether or not the accused received directives from other party or parties.
The appellate court judges pointed out that the prosecutors couldn’t convict the accused beyond reasonable doubts that led to the case’s judgment, i.e. acquit the accused. The prosecutors have two options now, either appeal to a higher court or give up.
If the authority chooses the first option, then they have to answer the doubts raised by the appellate court. In other words, they have to find out why the two police commandos killed Altantuya and more pertinently, where did the C4 explosives come from?
If the prosecutors choose to give up, then they will have to be prepared to face gigantic repercussions from the public.
Some say the appellate court should send the case back to the High Court to retrial, but I think the verdict leaves the prosecutors no more room to escape from finding the truth and to pretend they are serious in this case any more.
What say you?