Australia to send Malaysian hitman back if Malaysia drops death sentence

Altantunya, Sirul mugshot. Photo: YouTube screen-grab (montage)

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said today the hitman Sirul Azhar Umar will only be sent back if Putrajaya opts to drop his death sentence.

Sirul and a fellow bodyguard, Azila Hadri, were charged with the murder and sentenced to death in 2009 but Sirul has denied carrying out the killing.

Mahathir, who said he was not aware of The Guardian’s article on Sirul getting extradited to Malaysia, said Sirul is not coming back unless his death sentence is dropped.

“Australia will not send him back because he will be hanged if he comes here. But we might drop the death sentence to clear the way for him to be back to the country,” said the PM at a press conference.

The Malaysian hitman who made it to Australia only to find himself in jail in 2014 – while on bail during an appeal against his conviction in Kuala Lumpur – will be sent back to Malaysia.

The Australian authorities have approved a request from Malaysia to extradite the ex-PM Najib Razak’s bodyguard, said The Guardian yesterday.

The bodyguard was convicted of the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Sirul Azhar Umar escaped to Australia in 2014 but was put on Interpol red alert and arrested in Queensland for overstaying his tourist visa.

He has been held in the Villawood detention centre in Sydney ever since but the decision to extradite him to Malaysia came after assurances by the new Malaysian government that Sirul will receive fair treatment.

Sirul has offered himself as a ‘witness’ in the case if it is re-opened. According to former Deputy PM Anwar Ibrahim, there will be a new trial.

Anwar was among those who had called for Sirul to be brought back to Malaysia.

Last week he called for a new trial “that’s clearly transparent”.

“You have to allow for due process to take place and Malaysian authorities may seek Australia’s cooperation just to make sure there’s a fair trial,” he said.

The Guardian said a source revealed the Malaysian government has agreed to cover the cost of extradition.

It is believed Sirul will leave Australia within a month.

With Malaysia considering re-opening the case of Altantuya Shaariibuu’s death, the country will perhaps know the truth behind the grisly murder.

Altantuya had allegedly been the lover of Najib’s close confidant Abdul Razak Baginda, and had begun demanding money from Baginda for her role in a government deal to buy French submarines, where Baginda had allegedly been given multimillion-euro kickbacks.

In October 2006, the pregnant Altantuya was abducted in front of Baginda’s Kuala Lumpur home. There were witnesses, including a P. Balasubramaniam or PI Bala.

She was then taken to a forest in Subang where she was shot twice with a semi-automatic weapon and her body was blown up with military-grade explosives.

Sirul and a fellow bodyguard, Azila Hadri, were charged with the murder and sentenced to death in 2009 but Sirul has denied carrying out the killing.

Mongolian model and translator Altantuya Shaariibuu
Mongolian model and translator Altantuya Shaariibuu
Photograph: HANDOUT/EPA