Malaysian hitman walks free after Supreme Court rules indefinite immigration detention is unlawful in Australia
A man who committed a gruesome murder in his home country of Malaysia is now walking free in Australia following a High Court ruling against indefinite detention.
Sirul Azahr Umar, 51, was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, the pregnant girlfriend of a political agent, whom he killed and then blew up the body.
Umar, who had been a bodyguard for the Malaysian prime minister, was released from Sydney’s Villawood Detention Center on Saturday and is now believed to be in Canberra, where he was staying with a relative.
His release came after the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that indefinite immigration detention is unlawful.
The decision freed a refugee who raped a 10-year-old boy, while 100 non-citizens who cannot be deported to their home countries will also be freed.
In a joint statement, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles and Home Secretary Clare O’Neil said the government was “considering other measures that may be appropriate to ensure the safety of the community.”
Sirul Azahr Umar (pictured), who committed a gruesome murder in his home country of Malaysia, is now walking free in Australia following a Supreme Court ruling against indefinite detention
“Appropriate visa conditions will be imposed on individuals required to be released as a result of the High Court order, in line with the need to protect the community.
“The terms will be based on individual circumstances.”
The statement added that “the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Police are working closely with state and territory authorities and law enforcement agencies to support community safety.”
Umar, a former commando, fled to Australia after being sentenced to death for murder.
His asylum application was rejected in 2019 and he has since been held in indefinite detention because Australia would not deport him to Malaysia unless it abolished the death penalty.
The woman he killed was the partner of Razak Baginda, a close associate of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
A court in Malaysia ruled that Uman kidnapped Ms Shaariibuu and took her to the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, where he shot her and blew up her body.
Umar managed to flee to Australia while awaiting bail for an appeal.
He has previously claimed that he took part in the kidnapping of Ms Shaariibuu – a Mongolian national who worked as a model and translator – but not in her murder.
Although a motive for her murder has never been established, it has been speculated that her involvement in a defense deal to purchase two French Scorpene submarines may have led to the murder.
Former Prime Minister Razak Najib has denied ever meeting Ms Shaariibuu. In 2018, he said: ‘I have recorded that I swore in the name of Allah in a mosque that I had nothing to do with the case.
‘I still maintain that I didn’t know she died until four or five days after death… that was the first time I heard about her. There is no evidence that I ever knew her.’
Umar was sentenced to death for the 2006 murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu (pictured), the pregnant girlfriend of a political agent, whom he killed and then blew up the body
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court overturned a 2004 decision that ruled unsuccessful asylum seekers who could not be removed to another country could be lawfully held in immigration detention indefinitely.
According to the Human Rights Law Centre, the government is holding people for 708 days, but there are currently 124 people who have been in custody for more than five years, many of whom are stateless or owed protection by Australia.
Following the Australian High Court ruling, the Albanian government is processing and releasing other cases of detainees held in detention centers indefinitely.
Jane McAdam AO, director of UNSW’s Kaldor Center for International Refugee Law, called Wednesday’s decision an “important and long overdue victory for human rights.”
“Indefinite detention has always been arbitrary and unlawful under international law,” Prof. McAdam said.
‘Australia’s approach to detention has been completely different from that of other democratic countries for decades.
“This will have to change now.”