Sarawak businessman Datuk Stephen Lee Chee Kiang, 46, and two others who were charged with abetment in the murder of Miri PKR secretary Bill Kayong were discharged and acquitted by the High Court in Miri today.
- Accused Mohd Fitri faces murder charge
- Dayak rights activists, family, friends erupt in angry protest
- Lawyers urge immediate filing of appeal
The other two are Lee’s personal assistant, Chin Wui Chung, 51, and pub owner, Lie Chang Loon, 38.
Lee was represented by counsel Orlando Chua while counsels David Kuok and Arthur Lee appeared for Chin and Lie respectively.
Judge P Ravinthran, when delivering his verdict, said the prosecution team had failed to furnish evidence linking the trio to the murder.
He told prosecution officer Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Fuad Abdul Aziz that the court had no choice but to discharge and acquit the three men without calling for their defence.
He, however, ordered car repossessor, Mohamad Fitri Pauzi, who was charged with murdering Kayong or Mohd Hasbie Abdullah, to enter defence.
“However, for the first accused Mohd Fitri, I find credible evidence to call him to enter his defence on the murder charge,” he said.
He fixed Jun 14-16 for Fitri, 30, to defend himself on the charge. The accused is charged under Section 320 of the Penal Code for murder, which carries the mandatory death sentence.
Fitri allegedly murdered Kayong at a traffic light intersection near E-mart supermarket on Jalan Miri-Bintulu at 8.20am on Jun 21 last year.
After the judgment, Dayak rights activists as well as Kayong’s friends and relatives gathered outside the court building, visibly upset and protesting the court’s decision.
The FMT news portal reported that according to lawyers, the government must file a notice of appeal tomorrow although prosecutors have 14 days to do so, for the sake of public interest.
“The notice of appeal must be lodged so that the judge can proceed to write his grounds for acquittal for the benefit of the appellate court,” lawyer M Visvanathan said.
According to FMT, protesters were especially angry and distraught over the release of the businessman, who was said to have masterminded the murder.
The mafia-style killing of Kayong was believed to be linked to his work as an advocate of social issues, especially on indigenous rights and land issues.
Lee had left Miri for Singapore two days after the murder and was later reported to be on the run in Australia.
Lawyer SN Nair said the prosecution must appeal as this case had attracted wide public attention.
“Let the Court of Appeal decide whether the trial judge was correct in his ruling,” he said.