Malaysian acquitted in Mongolian slaying trial
By EILEEN NG, Associated Press Writer AP
Friday, October 31, 2008
SHAH ALAM, Malaysia - A Malaysian court acquitted a prominent political analyst Friday of abetting the gruesome killing of a Mongolian woman in a case that has drawn intense public speculation about alleged links to top government figures.
Abdul Razak Baginda smiles following his release at the High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, Oct. 31, 2008. A Malaysian court has acquitted the prominent political analyst accused of abetting the gruesome killing in October 2006 of a Mongolian woman. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, had been charged with abetting the slaying of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian interpreter who was shot in October 2006. Two police officers have been on trial for allegedly carrying out the killing.
High Court Judge Mohamad Zaki Yasin ruled Friday that the prosecution failed to establish a case against Abdul Razak following a trial that began nearly two years ago. However, Mohamad Zaki ordered the two policemen to enter their defense.
"I just want to go home," Abdul Razak told reporters after hugging his family.
Abdul Razak, 48, would have faced the death penalty if convicted of abetting the killing of Shaariibuu, with whom he had an eight-month affair.
Opposition leaders had repeatedly tried to link Najib and his wife to Shaariibuu's death. Najib, who is expected to succeed Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in March, has insisted he never knew Shaariibuu and repeatedly denied any involvement in the case.
The case has not directly implicated the government, but Friday's court decision is likely to raise opposition accusations of political interference in the judiciary.
"Regardless of whether it is fair or not, (Abdul Razak's) acquittal will only go further to fuel rumors and speculation about the involvement" of Najib, The Malaysian Insider political news Web site said in a commentary.
The remains of Shaariibuu, who was shot and blown up with military-grade explosives, were found in a jungle clearing near Shah Alam, the capital of central Selangor state.
Abdul Razak has acknowledged having an affair with Shaariibuu. The prosecution had contended that he ordered her killing after she pestered him for money.
Government prosecutor Abdul Majid Hamzah said he would "consider appealing the case" against Abdul Razak's acquittal, stressing that "the fight is not over yet." The prosecution had closed its case in June after 151 days of testimony by 84 witnesses.
The slain woman's father, Shaariibuu Setev, denounced the court's decision, claiming it was a blow to the credibility of Malaysia's judicial system.
"I am not satisfied," he told reporters. "My daughter is dead and (Abdul Razak) is free."
The trial for the two policemen is scheduled to resume Nov. 10.
Associated Press writer Sean Yoong contributed to this report.