By : A. Hafiz Yatim, Rita Jong, Lydia Gomez and V. Shuman
KUALA LUMPUR: The murder captured the attention of the nation. The trial is set to do the same.
One of the biggest and most talked about trials in recent years starts tomorrow and tongues will most definitely wag from start to finish. And, beyond.
All eyes will be on High Court 3 in Shah Alam where the murder trial of Altantuya Shaariibuu begins in a quest to determine the culprit and motive behind the death of the Mongolian beauty.
Altantuya, 28, was killed and her body blown up with explosives in a secluded spot in a forest area in Puncak Alam, Shah Alam.
It was there that what was left of her was found last November. With 132 names on the witness list, the trial which has been fixed for a month, has attracted local and foreign media.
This is because of the gruesome manner in which Altantuya was killed and the "big" names allegedly involved.
One of these "big" names is 46-year-old political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, charged with abetting Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, who were both charged with with Altantuya’s murder.
Many have speculated about what events on the day Altantuya disappeared and who gave the order to end her life.
These rumours are expected to be laid to rest during the trial.
The witnesses include top police officers, two private investigators and the victim’s family.
The proceedings will be nothing but headline-grabbing, with lurid details of a love affair turned sour and Altantuya’s last moments expected to be brought up.
Even before the trial begins, the case has attracted attention with the "details" out in the open.
Abdul Razak’s counsel, Wong Kian Kheong, let the cat out of the bag when he divulged information on the analyst’s affair with Altantuya, which lasted seven months, in one of his two failed attempts to apply for his client’s bail in January.
He said the former lovers had been together in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, France and Kuala Lumpur in 2004 and 2005.
Wong also went on to tell the court details of what happened just before and after her death.
Even the change of lawyers for the accused became a topic on its own.
Abdul Razak was first represented by counsel M. Puravalen and Datuk Muhammad Shafee Abdullah when he was charged last November. Wong was later appointed as his counsel.
Azilah, too, has had his fair share of lawyers.
When he was first charged in November, counsel Shaun Tan Kee Shaan appeared for him. A month later, Tan discharged himself and counsel Zulkifli Nordin took over.
On April 17, Zulkifli was nowhere to be seen and Azilah was instead represented by Hazman Ahmad and J. Kuldeep Kumar.
Zulkifli is, however, expected to be present tomorrow.
Sirul is represented by counsel Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin, Hasnal Rezua Merican and Ahmad Zaidi Zainal.
Altantuya’s murder trial has also seen two judges presiding over it.
When the matter was first transferred to the Shah Alam High Court, it was heard before judge Datuk K.N. Segara.
Owing to his packed court diary, Segara fixed hearing for March next year.
The case, however, was later transferred to High Court judge Datuk Mohd Zaki Md Yasin after three new courts were set up in Shah Alam to help clear the backlog of hearings.
It was Zaki who brought the trial forward.
Events following the murder
• Nov 7, 2006: Bone fragments of a woman, later identified as Altantuya Shaariibuu, are found in forested area in Puncak Alam, Shah Alam. Police investigations conclude she was shot dead and her body blown up two weeks earlier. By this date, police have two policemen, a policewoman and prominent political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda in custody.
• Nov 9: Abdul Razak takes police to his house in Bukit Damansara, where several items are seized. Two private investigators are picked up by police.
• Nov 10: The victim’s father, Shaariibuu Setev, tries to identify his daughter’s remains at Kuala Lumpur Hospital. Abdul Razak is admitted to the same hospital for chest pains and breathing difficulties.
• Nov 11: Shaariibuu gives his first press conference and says he hopes his daughter is still alive.
• Nov 13: The remand orders for the three police personnel are extended.
• Nov 14: Abdul Razak’s remand order is extended by two days.
• Nov 15: Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, 30, and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, 35, are charged in the Shah Alam magistrate’s court with Altantuya’s murder.
• Nov 16: Abdul Razak is charged in the Kuala Lumpur magistrate’s court with abetting Sirul and Azilah in the murder.
• Nov 22: The two private investigators picked up by police are released and are reported to now be prosecution witnesses.
• Nov 23: The Kuala Lumpur High Court releases Abdul Razak on a RM1 million bond with two sureties on medical grounds.
• Jan 5, 2007: Abdul Razak is remanded in Sungai Buloh prison after the bid to extend his bail is rejected.
• Jan 9: Abdul Razak applies to the Court of Appeal to review the rejection.
• Jan 11: The Court of Appeal rejects the application.
• Jan 19: Abdul Razak’s counsel, Wong Kian Kheong, reads out an affidavit detailing his client’s love affair with Altantuya during an application for bail.
• March 9: The Shah Alam High Court fixes hearing for 25 days from June 4.
• April 5: News reports say Altantuya’s family will file a suit against the Malaysian government seeking damages over her murder.
• May 24: Counsel for Sirul, Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin, applies to have the court compel the prosecution to supply him with statements of the witnesses.
• May 29: Court rejects Kamarul’s application.
DO YOU KNOW THAT...
• Only 50 to 60 people will be able to fit into the Shah Alam High Court 3 public gallery. More police officers will be placed in the courtroom to handle the crowd.
• Two Mongolian interpreters will be assigned to the case. One of the interpreters is based here, while the other will fly in from Mongolia.
• Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri was a former investigating officer. He still has a 2002 culpable homicide case pending at the Klang Sessions Court, which involves two accused. He is scheduled to take the stand as the investigating officer of the case on Aug 9, 10 and 14.
• Azilah served the police force for about 10 years. He was an investigating officer in the Sepang police headquarters when he applied to join the Special Action Squad after realising his forte laid in the field rather than behind a desk.
• There are 132 names on the witness list.
• Altantuya’s family will be suing the Malaysian government over the death of the Mongolian. They are expected to file the suit this week.
• Five Mongolian journalists and media from other countries are expected to cover the proceedings.
• Abdul Razak Baginda (picture) appeared on TV talk shows, analysed political events and speeches and gave input to policy makers.