KUALA LUMPUR: One of the accused charged with murder over the death of 23 people in a fire at Pusat Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah (pix) here, almost three years ago, cried uncontrollably after he was ordered by the High Court to enter his defence.
The man, now aged 19, broke down in the dock and was calmed down by his mother after defence counsel Haijan Omar explained to him the decision handed down by judge Datuk Azman Abdullah.
Azman ordered him to enter his defence on the charge after finding that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing a prima facie case against him, who was 16, when the tragedy occurred.
He fixed March 2 and 3 for the defence trial.
The court however acquitted and discharged the other person, also of the same age, who was charged with him without calling for his defence.
The two of them were seen hugging each other after proceeding ended.
They were jointly charged with murdering and causing the death of the 23 inmates at the tahfiz centre at Jalan Keramat Hujung, Kampung Datuk Keramat, Wangsa Maju here, between 4.15am and 6.45am on Sept 14, 2017.
They were charged with 23 counts of murder each, framed under Section 302 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 34 of the same law, which provides the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.
However, Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001 states that a death sentence shall not be pronounced or recorded against a person convicted of an offence if the child is under the age of 18, and in lieu of the death sentence, as provided under Section 97 (2) of the same law, the court shall order the person to be detained at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Section 94 of the same law also empowers the court to order the parents or guardians of the child offender to pay fine or compensation.
The prosecution was conducted by deputy public prosecutor Julia Ibrahim, while lawyers Haijan Omar and Ravin Jay represented both the accused.
Those killed in the tragedy were 21 students and two teachers when they were trapped on the third floor of the religious residential school hostel.
Meanwhile, Haijan informed the court that the defence would submit the list of witnesses to the prosecution soon.
A total of 71 witnesses testified during hearing of the case which started 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 that were found at the scene of the fire at the tahfiz centre 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 taken from the building where the fire broke out.
Those killed in the tragedy were 21 students and two teachers when they were trapped on the third floor of the religious residential school hostel. - Bernama