SEREMBAN: A 24-year-old man claimed trial to a charge of deliberately starting a fire at the iconic Then Sze Koon temple near here.
L. Kogilan, who was detained a day after the fire on Jan 21, was charged under section 436 of the Penal Code for arson at the Sessions Court here Thursday (Feb 1).
Offenders can be jailed up to 20 years and fined upon conviction.
Judge Fathiyah Idris allowed the suspect to be freed on a RM8,000 bail and fixed March 13 for re-mention.
Kogilan, who allegedly committed the offence around 5am, was unrepresented.
At the magistrate's court earlier, Kogilan, a former fireman, also claimed trial to a charge of breaking-in and theft at the temple.
He was charged under section 457 of the Penal Code which provides a jail term of up to 14 years and a fine.
Magistrate V. Vanita fixed re-mention on March 13 after denying the suspect's request for a bail.
Kogilan was represented by Noor Azizi Abdull Aziz from the Legal Aid Bureau.
Deputy public prosecutor Soo Kok Weng had asked the court not to allow bail as the suspect was facing another charge of allegedly starting a fire in the temple prayer hall after allegedly ransacking the place.
Five statues of Taoist deities and a century-old bell were destroyed in the blaze.
A CCTV recording at the temple showed a man loitering in the area just before the fire started.
There were no guards or employees at the temple during the incident.
Then Sze Koon, also known as the Centipede Temple, is a popular tourist destination.
The main building was constructed in 1863 and several additions were made after that.
The bell dating back to 1863 - second year of the reign of Tongzhi Emperor during the Qing Dynasty - is believed to be a gift from a devotee.