Malaysian model murder trial begins

Case of analyst accused of murdering his Mongolian lover has gripped Malaysia.

    The trial of Abdul Razak Baginda has drawn huge attention because of his close political connections

    The case has been avidly followed in Malaysia, with lurid details capturing the public's imagination and producing a frenzy of speculation over those connected to the murder.
    The trial is also politically-charged because of close links between Abdul Razak, who runs a prominent think-tank, and Najib Abdul Razak, the deputy prime minister, who has firmly denied any involvement with the case.

    Mongolian-born Altantuya Shaariibuu
    was murdered last October

    Opening the case for the prosecution on Monday, Tun Majid Tun Hamzah, the lead prosecutor, said Abdul Razak had abetted the two accused police officers "by planning and giving instructions to get rid of her by killing her".
    He said a confession from one of the two policemen would be among evidence presented by the prosecution during the trial.
    Prosecutors are expected to make the case that Abdul Razak ordered the two co-accused to kill Altantuya because she was harassing him after he ended the affair.
    In a sworn statement to the court, Abdul Razak portrayed Altantuya as a gold-digger who pestered him for money.
    The trial on Monday also took a new twist when the victim's family petitioned for Mohd Zaki Md Yasin, the presiding judge, to remove himself from the case over family ties with Hazman Ahmad, lead counsel for one of the co-defendants.
    But judge Mohammad Zaki dismissed the petition, vowing to maintain his impartiality and neutrality.
    He said the relationship was no reason to delay the trial and that he had "no personal interest whatsoever" in the case.

    Razak Baginda's family wore t-shirts showing
    their support as the trial began[AFP]

    The long-awaited trial has been dogged by one controversy after another.
    The trial judge, the prosecution team and at least one defence lawyer were all replaced even before hearings began.
    The hearing was scheduled to start on June 4 but was postponed after the attorney-general replaced the prosecutor abruptly claiming he was seen playing badminton with the judge.
    The new prosecutor asked for more time to study the case.
    Abdul Razak has acknowledged having an eight-month extramarital affair with Altantuya, a freelance translator and interpreter, beginning late 2004.
    The remains of her body were found in a jungle clearing near the Malaysian capital last October.
    Investigators say she had been shot in the head twice and her body blown up with military-grade plastic explosives.
    At the High Court in Shah Alam in Selangor state, a tearful Abdul Razak hugged his wife who was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words: "Mrs Abdul Razak Baginda" on the front with "And Proud of It" printed on the back.
    "I pray to Allah for right to be done. I don't want justice, I want right to be done," she said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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