31 October 2008

Malaysian Analyst Acquitted Over Sensational Murder

Agence France-Presse -10/31/2008 0357GMT

A high-profile political analyst was Friday acquitted of involvement in the murder of a Mongolian woman, in the latest twist in a sensational case that has gripped Malaysia.

Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, was accused of abetting the 2006 murder of his former lover Altantuya Shaariibuu, whose body was blown up with explosives in a jungle clearing.

In one of the longest hearings in Malaysia's history, a court spent 151 days considering whether Abdul Razak and two police officers accused of carrying out the murder should face trial.
"I find there is no prima facie case for him to answer his charge. He is therefore acquitted and discharged," said Judge Mohamad Zaki Mohamad Yasin. He had faced the death penalty by hanging if found guilty.

Abdul Razak, 48, hugged his wife and daughter from the dock while his elderly parents sat crying in the court.

"I just want to go home," he said as he was escorted out through a huge media scrum.
However, the court ordered the two policemen -- from an elite unit which guards the prime minister and deputy prime minister -- to stand trial. The case will be heard from November 10.
Altantuya's father Setev Shaariibuu, who has repeatedly criticised the handling of the case, was distraught over the decision.

"I am not satisfied. My daughter knows only one Malaysian and it is Razak Baginda. Now my daughter is dead and Baginda is freed... the country has lost credibility in the world," he told reporters.

Najib, who is expected to be appointed premier next March when Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi stands down, has vehemently denied any involvement in the case.
Malaysia's top blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin has repeatedly linked Najib and his wife to the murder on his popular website Malaysia Today. He was jailed in September under tough security laws for insulting Islam.

Abdullah last month defended his deputy over new allegations that Najib interfered in the case, after Malaysia Today published an SMS text message exchange purportedly between the deputy premier and Abdul Razak's lawyer.

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