KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said the government might revoke the death sentence on Sirul Azhar Umar, who was convicted in the 2006 murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, in order to facilitate his extradition from Australia.
“Sirul cannot return to Malaysia because Australia won’t allow someone facing capital punishment to return home,” Mahathir told reporters at a press conference here today.
“We may revoke the death sentence, but replace it with a jail term,” he added.
Mahathir’s comments followed a report by The Guardian claiming that Australia had approved Malaysia’s request for Sirul to be sent back.
The report, which quoted sources, said the request was granted after Malaysia agreed to cover the costs, adding that Sirul was expected to leave Australia within a month.
However, Mahathir said the government had not yet officially asked Australia to extradite Sirul.
Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin meanwhile told news portal Malaysiakini on the sidelines of the press conference that he had no knowledge of the report.
Altantuya, 28, was killed and blown up with military grade explosives in a forest on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
Sirul, who was convicted of the murder in 2009, was sentenced to hang together with his accomplice, Azilah Hadri.
They were released when an appeals court overturned the conviction in 2013 after raising questions about how their trial was conducted.
However, the Federal Court upheld their death sentences in 2015. Sirul fled the country ahead of that judgment and has been held at an Australian immigration detention centre in Sydney for the past three years.
At today’s press conference, Mahathir also took questions on other issues:
On meeting with former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
He wanted to see me. He was interested in supporting the government. He’s welcome to support the government or oppose it.
On MACC’s arrest warrant for Low Taek Jho
We are trying to arrest Jho Low, but he is in another country and there are no extradition treaties in the country where he is staying.
On grounds for Low’s arrest
To investigate his involvement in 1MDB.