Saturday June 30, 2007
Picture causes ruckus in court
THERE was a heated exchange among lawyers and prosecutors during the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder trial following a witness’ testimony that she had seen a picture of the deceased and Abdul Razak Baginda with a government official.
In the aftermath, a police report was lodged against one of the defence lawyers while the grudge between a veteran counsel and the lead DPP intensified.
It began when Burmaa Oyunchimeg, a cousin of Altantuya, was being re-examined by DPP Manoj Kurup on a contention made by lawyer Wong Kian Kheong on Thursday.
Her answer was that she knew Altantuya came here to see “Razak Baginda.”
“She only knew Razak Baginda in Malaysia. I knew why she wanted to see Razak Baginda because I’ve seen a picture of Altantuya, Razak Baginda and a government official.”
DPP Manoj immediately stopped her from continuing, and repeated his question.
Burmaa said Altantuya’s second cousin Namiraa Gerelmaa and friend Uuriintuya Gal-Ochir had told her about it.
Just before the witness was discharged, lawyer Karpal Singh, who represents the family of the victim and the Mongolian government, asked to pose two questions and clarify the testimony on the “government official.”
The moment “government official” was mentioned, lawyer Hazman Ahmad representing C/Insp Azilah Hadri and lead prosecutor DPP Tun Abd Majid Tun Hamzah stood up almost simultaneously to deny that there was such evidence.
A commotion followed as Hazman and DPP Tun Abd Majid continued to dispute Karpal Singh’s observations while Justice Mohd Zaki checked his notes.
In the midst of it, Burmaa put up her right hand and said loudly: “Yes, I said that.”
“In Hong Kong ... after Altantuya came back from France, she went to Hong Kong to meet me to show me the picture,” she said as the judge replied that he had not noted that part down earlier.
At this point, Hazman and DPP Tun Abd Majid began quarrelling with Karpal Singh over the matter.
After the commotion, Justice Mohd Zaki finally made a ruling that since he had missed the part, Karpal Singh could proceed to ask about the “government official.”
Karpal Singh: You said after Altantuya came back from France, she showed you a picture. Can you tell us what the picture was?
Burmaa: There was a picture ... having a meal. A picture of Altantuya having a meal with Razak Baginda and a Malaysian government official and other people.
Karpal Singh: Who was the government official in the photo?
Justice Mohd Zaki: You should ask her whether she knows him or not.
Burmaa: Najib Razak. I remember the name Najib Razak because the name Razak is the same. I thought maybe they were brothers.
Justice Mohd Zaki: What is the relevance of this to the charge?
Hazman: Political basis.
DPP Tun Abd Majid: Irrelevant.
Karpal Singh: The relevance is in the affidavit of the third accused (Abdul Razak), he had mentioned that the ADC of Najib Razak, the police officer ...
Burmaa: (Putting up her right hand to interrupt) The picture was even shown to her (Altantuya’s) father.
Karpal Singh: It was the ADC that directed and who helped in the three police personnel going to the house of Razak to take Altantuya away.
DPP Tun Abd Majid: DSP Musa Safri is listed as a witness in our list. You can examine him when he is called to testify later.
Hazman: It’s subjudice. The witness (DSP Musa) has not been called yet. This witness (Burmaa) is being coached. If he wants to make allegations, I also can make.
Karpal Singh: There is an allegation of coaching. My Lord, would he withdraw that? This witness has not been coached.
DPP Tun Abd Majid: What is the purpose of watching brief? To safeguard the interest of the victim’s family. You are not here to turn this court into a political forum. This is a court of law... The AG (Attorney-General) has given his assurance that we will produce everything in court leaving no stone unturned.
Wong, suddenly stood up to implore all parties including the press to allow his client Abdul Razak to defend against a capital punishment charge through the process of law.
Justice Mohd Zaki: I’ve been thinking, what is your purpose of watching brief, Mr Karpal?
Karpal Singh: My Lord, it’s to make sure everything comes out in the open.
The judge then told the court what he had recorded so far and that he was not allowing Karpal Singh to ask Burmaa any further questions. He then adjourned the court.
After the break, DPP Tun Abd Majid asked if Burmaa’s testimony about the picture would form part of the evidence.
The judge replied: “It is part of the record. Unless both sides want to pursue further on the replies?”
When Justice Mohd Zaki saw that no one had stood up, he discharged Burmaa from the stand.
Up to this point, the alleged photograph had not been produced in court.
After the proceedings ended at noon, Burmaa lodged a police report against Hazman over his allegation that she had been coached on how to give evidence in the trial.