A Malaysian court on Thursday charged two teenagers with 23 counts of murder for allegedly causing a fire that killed 21 students and two teachers at an Islamic school in Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago.
The two 16-year-old suspects haven’t entered a plea in the blaze that engulfed the third-floor dormitory of the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah School on Sept. 14, prosecutors said.
The two boys and four other teenage suspects were also charged with drug-related offenses at the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court. A seventh suspect was released from custody without charge due to a lack of evidence against him.
Thursday’s proceedings took place behind closed doors and only family members of the accused were allowed inside the courtroom.
In Malaysia, a murder charge carries a death sentence, but in cases involving juveniles, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
Magistrate Siti Radziah Kamaruddin set Nov. 28 for sentencing, while the court awaited reports from the state’s chemistry and welfare departments.
Malaysian police earlier said that the seven boys had deliberately set fire at the school, which is classified as a “tahfiz” center where students learn to memorize the Quran.
Thirty-six students and six teachers were staying at the school when the fire broke out. The victims, boys aged 16 years or younger, and two school staff members were trapped behind barred windows and a locked door, fire officials said. They said the school did not have a fire safety permit and occupational certificate.
The father of one of the survivors, Sharifuddin Musa, said he wanted to see the court proceedings on Thursday, but was not allowed in by court officials.
“I can forgive, but I am also sad about what had happened. Other family members and I can only hope for fair sentences being passed on these suspects,” he told reporters.
The mother of 12-year-old Nik Mohd Ridzuan, who died in the blaze, also tried to enter the courtroom.
“I just want to see the faces of those who are responsible for the incident,” she said.
Full story: BenarNews
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