17 Men Acquitted In 2018 Temple Riot Case Because Witnesses Failed To Identify Suspects
The Petaling Jaya Magistrate's Court has acquitted 17 men who were charged with rioting over the fracas at a temple in Subang Jaya five years ago
In his ruling yesterday, 27 June, magistrate Iskandar Zainol freed the accused without calling them to enter their defence after he ruled that the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case over the incident, reported New Straits Times.
Kirthiraj Rajasundram, who is the lawyer for one of the accused, Saifullah Abdullah, confirmed the ruling to the English daily when contacted.
The 16 other accused were Riduan Sekh Ruslan, Irwan Noordin, Khairi Abdul Rashid, Rozaihan Zakaria, Qayyum Mohd Faisal, Ashraf Mohd Faizal, Absal Eastrie Abdullah, Jalil Talib, Khairol Anuar Zabidi, Zamri Md Said, Shukri Razali, Nor Azmi Abdul Ghani, Shahril Danniel Sajeel, Hasneezam Shah Samsudin, Akmal Izzat Azi, and Norul Ismawi Islahuddin.
According to Free Malaysia Today, the accused, aged between 24 and 47, were charged under Section 148 of the Penal Code for possessing weapons at a riot between 2am and 5am on 26 November 2018 at the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.
The criminal offence carries a punishment of up to five years' imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
The magistrate said that the witnesses failed to recognise the accused, even when it was conducted through dock identification
Kirthiraj told New Straits Times that the witnesses failed to identify the accused because the incident happened in the wee hours of the morning.
He also said the weapons were merely collected by the witnesses at the scene and not seized from the accused.
The lawyer added that the court also found that witnesses were unreliable due to inconsistency in their testimonies.
The trial began in 2019 and saw 20 witnesses being called in to give evidence before three different magistrates, reported Free Malaysia Today.
On 28 November 2018, two days after the incident, then home minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the police found that the group who accosted devotees at the temple were hired by a certain party
He said lawyers of One City Development Berhad paid the riot leader RM150,000 to intrude the Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam Temple.
The money was then reportedly used to hire around 50 youths to take over the temple.
Roughly 24 hours later, another riot erupted, causing several vehicles at the scene to be torched.
A Fire and Rescue Department team was also attacked during the chaos.
The incident led to the death of a firefighter, Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim. The 24-year-old was severely injured at the scene before passing away a month later at the National Heart Institute.
In 2019, the coroner's court ruled that Adib's death was caused by criminal acts involving two or more unidentified individuals, reported New Straits Times.