July 14: Verdict in tahfiz fire appeals

PUTRAJAYA — The Court of Appeal has fixed July 14 fo decision on an appeal by a teenager who was found guilty for the murder of 23 people in a fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz Centre in 2017.

A three-member panel comprising Justices Datuk Abu Bakar Jais, Datuk Che Mohd Ruzima Ghazali and Datuk See Mee Chun, will also decide on the same day over the prosecution’s appeal against the acquittal of another teenager for the offence without ordering him to enter his defence.

Justice Datuk Abu Bakar Jais, who chaired the panel, said they are not prepared to deliver the decision today as they need to go through the oral and written submission by the prosecution and the defence. 

Earlier, the court heard the submission by deputy public prosecutor How May Ling and lawyer Haijan Omar over the  prosecution’s appeal against the High Court’s decision in acquitting and discharging  the second teenager, aged 22, for the offence without calling for his defence.

The appeal by the first teenager against the High Court’s decision on Aug 17, 2020, which found him guilty  and ordered him to be detained at the pleasure of the Yang-di-Pertuan Agong, was heard on March 9 this year.

According to the charge, both teenagers, who were 16 years old then, together with another unidentified individual, were accused of murdering and causing the death of the 23 people staying at the tahfiz centre at Jalan Keramat Hujung, Kampung Datuk Keramat, Wangsa Maju here, between 4.15am and 6.45am on Sept 14, 2017.

In today’s court proceeding, How urged the court to make an order for the second teenager to enter his defence on the charge.

She said it was impossible for one person to cause the fire at the school as there were two gas tanks weighing 14 kg each that were carried from the ground floor of the school to the second floor through the staircase.

She said one gas tank was placed horizontally at the door and another one vertically and petrol was splashed on the door and fire was lit.

“It is impossible for one person (do do it), it was done by two persons,” she added.

She said circumstantial evidence showed there were four individuals seen at the back of the tahfiz school – the first and second teenager and two other male individuals who are brothers – with the first teenager and another unidentified individual entering the tahfiz school by climbing the fence at the back of the tahfiz school.

Based on the CCTV recordings and the body shape of the second teenager,  who was small and thin, he was able to go through the small opening of the barb wire fence to enter into the school compound, compared to the two brothers, she added.

Meanwhile, Haijan, representing the two appellants,  said there was no positive identification that the second teenager had entered the school, adding that they cannot rule out the two brothers from entering the school. 

He said there was also no evidence to show that the second teenager was involved in the crime, hence, no need for him to enter his defence. – Bernama / pic TMR File