Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET on 2019-12-17
A Malaysian court agreed Tuesday to hear a retrial petition from an ex-police officer on death row for the 2006 murder of a Mongolian model, after he gave a sworn statement alleging that former Prime Minister Najib Razak and an aide ordered him to kill the woman.
The Federal Court in Putrajaya set April 20, 2020, to hear the petition of Azilah Hadri, which he submitted last week along with his statutory declaration (SD) – as the sworn statement is officially known, according to his attorney. The declaration that Azilah filed contained details about the 13-year-old murder.
Azilah named Najib, who was deputy prime minister (DPM) at that time, and his aide, Abdul Razak Baginda, as the persons who instructed him to kill Altantuya Shaariibuu after telling him that the model was really a spy. Najib’s attorney called the allegations “ridiculous.”
“The DPM stated that this matter could not be discovered by the public because it involved a threat to national security. The DPM then ordered me to carry out this clandestine operation to apprehend and get rid of the spy and dispose her body,” Azilah said in the Malay-language declaration, a copy of which BenarNews obtained from his lawyer.
Azilah, a former commando with the police’s elite Special Action Unit (UTK), also claimed that Najib and Abdul Razak had used hand gestures when they told him separately to get rid of Altantuya.
Azilah alleged he told Najib that a police report should be lodged about the alleged spy, but Najib was against it.
“I asked the DPM what he meant by apprehend and dispose of the body of the foreign spy, and he answered: ‘Shoot to kill,’ while showing the slit-throat signal. When I asked what he meant by disposing the body of the foreign spy, the DPM said: ‘dispose the body of the foreign spy with no trace.’”
In the declaration dated Oct. 17, Azilah said Najib had ordered him to use military explosives to get rid of the body.
Azilah, who is serving his sentence at the Kajang Prison in Selangor state, said Najib had given him the order 13 years earlier – on Oct 17, 2006.
He and another UTK member, Sirul Azhar Umar, were convicted of killing Altantuya sometime during the evening of Oct. 19 or morning of Oct. 20. Sirul has fled to Australia, where he has been held at an immigration detention center since January 2015.
Azilah’s lawyer, J. Kuldeep Kumar, confirmed the details of the declaration and the date of the review.
“Yes, we confirm that we have filed a review application supported by an affidavit and an SD,” he told reporters after Tuesday’s court hearing at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya.
Najib’s attorney, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who was present at the hearing, challenged the review.
“This is unbelievable, as unbelievable as claiming that a cow jumped over the moon. This is how ridiculous it is,” Shafee told reporters after the hearing.
Shafee said he was intervening because Azilah had implicated Najib.
“We do not care at all ... if someone wants to save his life, if he wants to review and say there is no evidence, or that judges made a mistake, I would support that,” he said.
“But what we are opposing is that they are suddenly implicating my client in a very spectacular way. … What they say is an inherently non-credible story,” Shafee said.
Lawyers representing Altantuya’s family were present at the hearing as well.
Altantuya was 28 years old in October 2006 when she was shot dead and her body blown up in a remote jungle outside Kuala Lumpur.
Four years earlier, Altantuya worked as a translator during the Malaysian government’s negotiations for the purchase of two Scorpene-class submarines from French shipbuilding giant DCNI.
She allegedly had a romantic relationship with Abdul Razak, a defense analyst close to Najib, who was serving as defense minister in 2002 under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Abdul Razak was tried but acquitted of abetting the crime.
In June 2018, one month after Mahathir succeeded Najib as prime minister following his Pakatan Harapan coalition’s election upset, his government announced that police would reopen the murder investigation into the Altantuya case.