Malaysian family jailed over child's 'exorcism' death

Malaysian family jailed over child's 'exorcism' death
Chuah Wan Xuan's aunt (in orange) and cousins (in purple) being taken by the police.

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian high court on Friday jailed three family members who suffocated their two-year-old to death by piling on top of her in a suspected exorcism ritual.

Chua Wan Zuen, aged two, died after being pinned down under a blanket in August last year with eight people, including her parents, crushing her for several hours in an attempt to drive away evil spirits.

A high court in northern Penang state ordered the parents - an engineer and a traditional herbalist - and an uncle to be jailed for one year, quashing an earlier fine of 10,000 ringgit (S$3891) each, meted out by a lower court in August, their lawyer Ang Chun Pun said.

It also overturned the conviction of the girl's aunt, ordering her to be admitted to a mental health hospital as she was diagnosed to have been suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the girl's death.

Ang said the aunt, 41, persuaded the rest of the ethnic Chinese family to try the "prayer session".

"They were staunch Buddhists. They believed that the child was possessed.

They intended to help the child," Ang said. "But the prayer session in an enclosed space went far too long. The cause of death was suffocation."

Government lawyers withdrew their appeal to increase the punishment for the girl's grandmother, who was also fined 10,000 ringgit (S$3891), because she was sick.

They also withdrew their appeal of the ruling on two cousins, a 22-year-old who earlier was ordered to pay a 5,000 ringgit (S$1945) fine and a 17-year-old who was released on probation, Ang said.

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