Teenager found guilty of murder of 23 individuals in tahfiz fire

KUALA LUMPUR (BERNAMA) – A 19-year-old was found guilty of murder at the High Court yesterday over the death of 21 students and two teachers in a fire at Pusat Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah almost three years ago.

Judge Datuk Azman Abdullah meted out the sentence on the teenager, who is now 19 years-old , after finding that the defence had failed to raise reasonable doubts against the 23 murder charges.

The boy was 16 when the offence was committed. “After hearing the testimony of all parties, the court found that the first offender (the teenager) intentionally committed mischief to cause death,” said the judge.

He said since the teenager was still a juvenile when the offence was committed, he had applied Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001 to sentence him.

Due to the accused’s age, the court ordered for him to be detained in a prison at the pleasure of the Malaysian King in accordance with Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001.

Lawyer Haijan Omar. PHOTO: BERNAMA

It is up to the King to determine the terms and condition of the teenager’s detention from time to time, the judge said.

In mitigation, lawyer Haijan Omar, representing the teenager, said his client apologised to everyone involved and that he would appeal against the sentence.

On January 28, Justice Azman ordered the teenager to enter his defence on the charge after finding that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing a prima facie case against him, who is now 19.

The court however acquitted and discharged another person, also of the same age, who was charged with him without calling for his defence.

The two of them were initially jointly charged with the murder offence, but the charge was later amended following the decision at the end of the prosecution’s case. According to the amended charge, the teenager, together with another individual who had not been identified, was charged with murdering and causing the death of the 23 inmates at the tahfiz centre at Jalan Keramat Hujung, Kampung Datuk Keramat, Wangsa Maju, between 4.15am and 6.45am on September 14, 2017.

He was charged with 23 counts of murder each, framed under Section 302 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 34 of the same law, which provides the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.