Runaway Sirul a no-show at teleconference

Runaway Sirul a no-show at teleconference

Sirul Azhar Omar was meant to speak to media via telephone from Villawood in Sydney – the detention centre where he has been held since he fled to Australia. But attempts to contact Sirul at the packed press conference failed.

Microphones set up in preparation for Sirul Azhar Omar’s teleconference from Australia. (Photo: Sumisha Naidu)

The former bodyguard to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was one of two ex-police men sentenced to death in January for the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaaribuu. Altantuyaa’s body was found blown up by C4 explosives in a jungle clearing in Shah Alam, Selangor in 2006. She had worked as a translator on sensitive defense contracts for Malaysia.

Last week, Sirul supported widespread speculation that he and his colleague, Azilah Hadri, had taken the fall for someone “higher up” – allegedly telling local news portal Malaysiakini that he had acted under orders and was being made a scape goat.

Opposition Islamist party PAS then contacted Sirul, offering him a platform to tell his story to more Malaysian media via a teleconference.

The SMS exchange between PAS’s Mahfuz Omar and Sirul Azhar, where he agreed to the press conference. (Photo: Sumisha Naidu)

PAS’ Information Chief, Mahfuz Omar, could not speculate on Sirul’s failure to answer his calls at the planned teleconference. But last week, the Australian Department of Immigration told Australian paper The Sydney Morning Herald that any requests for interviews with detainees needed to go through proper application processes.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told Malaysian media last week that claims Sirul acted on orders were “rubbish”. The country’s police chief has also reportedly said that Sirul had enough opportunities to tell his alleged version of events during the many years his case was in and out of Malaysian courtrooms.

Malaysia is seeking to extradite Sirul from Australia to face his sentence, but Australia does not extradite people to a country where they face the death penalty.

Mr Mahfuz says he will attempt another media conference in Sydney next week, where he will be accompanying Sirul’s mother to visit Sirul. He believes police should reopen investigations into Sirul’s case as the question of motive was not sufficiently explored in the courts.

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