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article imageMalaysia may commute killer's sentence in murder scandal

By AFP     Jun 8, 2018 in World

The death sentence of a former policeman convicted of killing a young woman in a scandal linked to the country's disgraced ex-premier may be commuted to allow his return from Australia, Malaysia's leader said Friday.

Sirul Azhar Umar is in Australian custody after fleeing Malaysia in 2015 and maintains he was ordered by "important people" to murder the Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu, in 2006.

Altantuya was killed and her body blown up with military-grade explosives.

Her murder was the most shocking aspect in a scandal involving allegations that an associate of recently ousted premier Najib Razak arranged huge kickbacks for the purchase of French submarines in 2002.

Since Najib's shock election loss at last month's elections, Sirul has reportedly said he is willing to assist any new government investigation into the scandal, a potential major breakthrough in the case.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Friday that Sirul could not currently be sent back to Malaysia as "Australia doesn't allow people who may be hung to death to return to their country".

"We may cancel the hanging sentence on him, but replace it with a jail sentence... so that he can return home," he told a press conference.

Leading politician Anwar Ibrahim, the presumptive successor to Mahathir, has previously called for Sirul to be brought back to Malaysia for a retrial.

However Mahathir denied reports that Malaysia had sought Sirul's extradition and Australia had already approved the request.

Australia's High Commission in Malaysia said in a statement that discussions had taken place with Kuala Lumpur about Sirul but that no extradition request had been lodged.

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