Islamic school fire: Death penalty not an option for youths responsible, says Malaysian minister

PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

PETALING JAYA - The seven youths held over the tahfiz fire last Thursday cannot face the death penalty as they are underage, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

Responding to the chorus of calls from parents of the victims and the public for the youths to be charged as adults and given the death penalty, the de-facto Law Minister said the teenagers would be tried in accordance with laws such as Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001.

She said even if they were found guilty of murder, their punishments would be under Section 91(1) of the Act which include whipping, fines or detention at an approved school.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun also said that the parents of the youths would not be charged as they had nothing to do with the case.

Azalina said the incident should be used as a lesson for all parties, especially parents, in the fight against crime involving children.

"I urge all parties to stop specula­ting and give space to the authorities to complete the investigation," she said.

The early morning fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah school resulted in the deaths of 21 students and two teachers.

In a related development, Fire and Rescue Department director-general Datuk Wan Mohd Nor Ibrahim said the entrance at the dormitory in which 21 students and two teachers were burned to death, had been doused with petrol.

He said traces of petrol were found on the dorm's door and outer wall, as well as on a towel rack and a shoe rack located outside the room's door.

He said two gas cylinders with their valves removed were placed in front of the door, and Liquid Petroleum Gas was deliberately released from the cylinders, causing the fire to spread fast.

"The fire started at the main entrance of the dormitory, which is located at the third level of the school. This is based on the statements taken from witnesses and victims that survived.

"We also found spalling on the wall near the dormitory door, mass loss on the door, ceiling, cupboard and a shoe rack.

"Clean burn marks on the wall surrounding the dormitory entrance strengthens the evidence that the fire started at the door.

"Four dogs from our K9 Unit found seven traces in front of the dormitory, and these samples were found to contain a flammable liquid residue, which is petrol," he told a press conference in Putrajaya yesterday.

Wan Mohd Nor said the official cause of the incident is classified as incendiary fire.

One of the teenagers arrested to help police in their investigations into the fire was brought to the tahfiz at about 11.50am yesterday.

He was escorted to the rear fence of the tahfiz and was taken away an hour later.

24 people, mostly teen boys, killed in KL religious school fire

  • Norhayati showing the letter written by her son before the fire. Amiel Asyraf Abdul Rashid had penned a letter to his parents telling them how much he loved them.
  • The religious school where it is now confirmed that 24 people died in a fire early Thursday was in the midst of applying for a fire safety permit.
  • However, the Tahfiz Darul Ittifaqiyah started its operations before the permit was approved by the Fire and Rescue Department.
  • Cries for help were heard by residents who had woken for the Subuh prayers in Kampung Datuk Keramat early Thursday.
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