Court okays accountant as interpreter in suit by Altantuya’s family

Enkjhin Batbilig seen outside the courtroom with Altantuya Shaariibuu’s father, Shaariibuu Setev.

SHAH ALAM: The High Court has declared an accountant competent to perform the role of interpreter in the civil suit brought against the government by the family members of Mongolian citizen Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Justice Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera said Enkjhin Batbilig was qualified to translate the testimony given by witnesses from English to Mongolian and vice versa.

“Her academic qualification was earned in English, and she has some experience in English translation,” he said in dismissing the objection by the government and its co-defendant, political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda.

Vazeer also said there was no basis to claim that Enkjhin, 31, was biased for being with two Mongolian witnesses at their lawyers’ legal firm.

Lawyer Manjeet Singh Dhillon, appearing for Razak, had challenged Enkjhin’s credibility as interpreter as she had spent time with the victim’s father, Shaariibuu Setev, her son Mungunshagai Bayarjargal and Mongolian officials.

Manjeet also claimed that Enkjhin would have been exposed to the history of the case as far back as 2006 when Altantuya’s murder first made headlines.

He alleged that Enkjhin’s meeting with witnesses for two hours yesterday amounted to attempts to coach them.

He also said Enkjhin did not possess the mandatory requirements of a qualified interpreter.

Senior federal counsel Norina Bahadun, who appeared for the government together with Tengku Intan Suraya Tengku Ismail, adopted Manjeet’s submission as well.

“Enkjhin is not an independent interpreter, and she compromised herself in meeting the witnesses,” she said.

However, Ramkarpal Singh, appearing for Altantuya’s family, said the allegations against Enkjhin, while serious, were not substantiated.

“She is competent in English, and every Mongolian would have been acquainted with the murder in 2006,” he said.

Altantuya’s father, his wife Altantsetseg Sanjaa, and Mungunshagai named Razak, the government and former policemen Sirul Azhar Umar and Azilah Hadri as defendants in the suit.

Another of Altantuya’s sons, Alatanshagai Munkhtukga, was removed as plaintiff as he died two years ago.

The family, which alleges that there was conspiracy in Altantuya’s murder, is seeking RM100 million in damages including dependency claims.

Sirul and Azilah were convicted by the High Court in 2009 of killing Altantuya, who was described as an interpreter and a model.

They succeeded in overturning their conviction at the Court of Appeal in 2013, but the Federal Court in 2015 restored their conviction and sentenced them to death.

Sirul fled to Australia before the final verdict. The Federal Court later issued a warrant of arrest for him.

Razak, who was charged with abetment in the murder, was freed at the end of the prosecution’s case. The court ruled that the charge against him was not proven and the government did not appeal, a move that drew public condemnation.

Neither Sirul, who is being held at an Australian detention centre, nor Azilah, who is on death row at Kajang Prison, have challenged the suit.

Vazeer adjourned the hearing to tomorrow, when Setev is expected to take the witness stand followed by Mungunshagai and Altantuya’s cousin, Burmaa Oyunchimeg.

Oyunchimeg Purev, a Mongolian human rights commissioner, is also here to follow the proceedings.

“I hope Altantuya’s family will get justice through this civil case,” she said through Enkjhin.