Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lawyer seeks to summon Malaysia's deputy prime minister as witness in murder trial

KUALA LUMPUR- A Malaysian opposition lawyer said Tuesday he hopes to summon the deputy prime minister to testify in the trial of a slain Mongolian woman.

The bid to call Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak as a witness marks the latest attempt by the opposition to link the politician to Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28-year-old translator who was brutally slain in 2006.

One of Najib's associates and two police officers have been charged in the killing. Najib, who is widely expected to succeed Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as prime minister, has repeatedly denied involvement in the case and insists he never even met the woman.

Karpal Singh, a prominent opposition lawyer who is monitoring the trial on behalf of Shaariibuu's family, said he filed a court application Monday to summon Najib and four others to testify in the slaying.

Political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, who acknowledged having an affair with Shaariibuu, has been charged with abetting the crime. Two police officers are charged with carrying it out.

Earlier this month, Abdul Razak's private investigator, Balasubramaniam Perumal, filed a sworn statement claiming he had information that Najib had sex with Shaariibuu.

Less than 24 hours later, he retracted the claim, saying he had made it under duress. Police say Balasubramaniam has since left Malaysia because of fears for his safety.

Najib "is an important witness in light of the revelations" in Balasubramaniam's first statement, Karpal said, adding that the court is expected to hear his application Wednesday.

Karpal added that he wants to recall Balasubramaniam, who has already testified in court, to the witness stand. He also plans to summon a lawyer and two police officers as new witnesses.

Najib's aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements, said the deputy leader was unlikely to comment for now because the legal process was still ongoing.

The remains of Shaariibuu, who was shot then blown up with military-grade explosives, were found in a jungle clearing.

The prosecution contends that Abdul Razak, who was a close associate of Najib, ordered Shaariibuu's killing after she pestered him for money.

By JULIA ZAPPEI,Associated Press Writer

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