Murder accused in tahfiz fire to know his fate today

KUALA LUMPUR: A teenager who was charged with murder over the death of 21 students and two teachers in a fire at Pusat Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah almost three years ago will know his fate today.

High Court judge Justice Azman Abdullah is scheduled to hand down his decision at 2.30pm. The defence closed its case on June 19 after calling six witnesses.

On Jan 28, Justice Azman ordered the accused, who was 16 when the alleged offence was committed, to enter his defence on the charge after finding that the prosecution had succeeded in making a prima facie case against him. The accused is now 19.

The court acquitted and discharged another person, also of the same age, who was charged with him without calling for 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 unidentified individual, allegedly murdered the 23 people at the tahfiz centre in Jalan Keramat Hujung, Kampung Datuk Keramat, Wangsa Maju here, between 4.15am and 6.45am on Sept 14, 2017.

As the accused is underaged, Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001 states a death sentence shall not be pronounced or recorded against him, and is to be detained at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, if convicted.

The prosecution was conducted by Deputy Public Prosecutor Julia Ibrahim while lawyer Haijan Omar represented the accused.

A total of 71 witnesses testified at the prosecution’s stage which began on May 30, 2018.

Among them was Putrajaya Fire and Rescue Department director (fire safety division) Edwin Galan Teruki, who told the court that valves of two gas tanks found at the scene of the fire had been punctured.

Another witness, a science officer at the Fire Investigation Laboratory, Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department, Yusnita Osman, said traces of petrol were found on samples from the building where the fire broke out.

The teenager in his defence denied that he was in the tahfiz’s compound at any time during the commission of the offence.

Another defence witness, a 19-year-old, said he was with the accused and other friends smoking ganja before the fire broke out.

The third defence witness said his six friends, including the accused, came to his house and then rode their motorcycles to a hut in Taman Balak, Datuk Keramat here, to smoke ganja between 1am and 2am on Sept 14, 2017. — Bernama

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