Former police officer Sirul Azhar Umar, convicted of the murder of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006, has been released from the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney, Australia, yesterday.
According to Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald, Sirul Azhar was released after spending nine years in immigration custody since 2015.
His release follows the country’s High Court decision on Nov 8, stating that non-citizen detainees who cannot be deported cannot be held indefinitely by immigration authorities.
Following this decision, 92 individuals, mostly refugees, including others convicted of violent crimes, were released and allowed to stay in Australia under specific conditions.
As reported by the media outlet, the news of Sirul Azhar’s release was confirmed by his son, Shukri Azam, currently residing in Australia.
“He is now with me, and I am handling all matters on his behalf,” he said, quoting The Sydney Morning Herald’s report.
On May 3, BH reported that Shukri Azam appealed to the Australian government to reconsider their political asylum request after the initial application was rejected in 2019.
Shukri Azam, 23, stated that he and his father have no plans to return to Malaysia, even though the mandatory death penalty for serious crimes, including murder, has been abolished.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Shukri Azam, who was six years old when Altantuya was killed, claimed he feared for his father’s life if they were to return to Malaysia.
Shukri Azam was reportedly raised by adoptive parents in Australia after being separated from his mother and has been residing in Australia for nearly ten years.
On April 9, 2009, the court sentenced Sirul Azhar and Azilah to death for the murder of Altantuya. However, both filed appeals against their sentences.
In Feb 2012, their appeal hearings took place over three days, and finally, on Aug 23, 2013, the Court of Appeal ordered the release of Azilah and Sirul Azhar.
However, the prosecution filed an appeal against this decision in the Federal Court, and the appeal hearing took place on June 23, 2014.
A five-judge panel of the Federal Court unanimously upheld the death sentences for Azilah and Sirul Azhar after allowing the prosecution’s appeal on Jan 13, 2015.
Sirul Azhar left Malaysia while the case was still under appeal and did not return when the Federal Court pronounced the sentence.
He was subsequently detained by Australian authorities, consistent with the country’s policy of not repatriating individuals facing the death penalty in their home country.
Azilah is currently on death row at Kajang Prison.