Tahfiz School Arson: Two Teens Hit with 23 Counts of Murder

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Two suspects jointly charged with 23 counts of murder, four others charged with self-administration of drugs, one released.

  • 7 suspects detained
  • 1 released due to insufficient evidence
  • 2 teens charged with murder, but will escape death penalty because of their age
  • 6 charged with self-administration of drugs, 3 pleaded guilty, including an 18-year-old charged as an adult
  • 3 claimed trial to drug charge, with 12-year-old allowed bail

The foreign and local media began converging at the Special Court for Children at Jalan Duta as early as 7am.

Family members of the suspects and victims of the fire as well as members of the public started gathering from 8am, while several lawyers were seen arriving at 9am.

Two suspects were charged with murder, with the proceedings taking place behind closed doors as the accused were minors. Only their family members were allowed to be in the courtroom.

“They are being tried jointly and are facing 23 counts of murder, one for each victim of the fire,” deputy public prosecutor Othman Abdullah told reporters after the hearing.

No pleas were recorded.

The suspects were unrepresented.

The court fixed Nov 28 for mention of the case.

The two suspects, both 16, were charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code but will escape the death penalty because of their age.

They could instead face whipping, fines, or detention at an approved school.

At two other magistrate’s courts, the duo, along with four others, including 18-year-old Mohamad Shahrul Nizam, were charged under Section 15(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 for self-administration of drugs.

The two murder suspects pleaded guilty.

Sentencing was postponed, pending reports from the welfare department.

Three suspects, brothers aged 16 and 17 and a 12-year-old, claimed trial.

The 12-year-old was allowed bail at RM3,000 while the elder two were denied bail for their personal safety, according to their lawyer Noor Svetlana Mohd Noor Nordin.

The suspects aged between 12 and 17 may not be named as they are minors.

In another court, Mohd Sharul Nizam Ikmal, also pleaded guilty to the drug charge. Sentencing was postponed, pending a pathology report.

Charged as an adult, Sharul faces a faces a maximum two years’ in jail and a maximum fine of RM5,000.

All of the accused were alleged to have consumed cannabis, methamphetamine (syabu) and Tetrahdrocannabinol-9 carbolic acid at the Dang Wangi Police Headquarters at about 11.35am on Sept 16.

Both magistrates fixed Nov 28 for mention.

The seventh suspect was released today as there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.

The father of one of the survivors, businessman Sharifuddin Musa was at the courthouse to hear the charges.

“I can forgive, but (I’m) also sad about what had happened. The other family members and I can only hope for fair sentences for the suspects,” Sharifuddin told reporters.

Principal Mohamad Zahid Mahmood told Harian Metro Online earlier that charging the youths would bring an end to the painful episode and closure to families of the victims as well the school.

“Whatever happens to them (the suspects) is determined by Allah, they need to face punishment for what they did,” Zahid was quoted as saying.

He said he would not be at the courthouse today as his focus was to “rebuild the tahfiz school, and the morale of the pupils and teachers after this tragedy”.

Meanwhile, another tahfiz school caught fire this morning, this time in Seremban.

The Rembau Fire Department received a distress call at 1.50am.

All 37 people housed in the school building managed to escape the blaze, but three students were treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire destroyed more than 60 percent of the Yayasan Sofa Astana tahfiz school at Raja Chengkau.

Tahfiz schools reportedly have a high incidence of fire. According to statistics from the Fire and Rescue Department, there were 211 fires at tahfiz schools nationwide from 2015 to 2017.

Earlier reports:

Sept 19, Six Suspects in Tahfiz Fire Were Expelled Students

Sept 18, Seven Suspected Teenage Keramat Arsonists: No Remorse, Bad Reputation

Sept 17, Seven Teen Boys Arrested in Tahfiz Fire Probe

Sept 15, Aftermath of Religious School Fire

Sept 14, Fire at Religious School Kills 22 Students, Two Teachers