By Nurbaiti Hamdan | The Star
There were instances where marine cadet officer Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain could have been saved from the torment he faced when he was accused of stealing a laptop, said a High Court judge.
In his decision, Justice Azman Abdullah noted that a witness in the case had written an anonymous letter to the upper management of Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM) regarding Zulfarhan’s abuse at the hands of his university mates.
The attempt, however, failed as the trainer who received the letter exposed the letter’s content in a WhatsApp group message.
The judge said if the university trainer had used her common sense, it could have saved the deceased.
“But fate did not side with the deceased as this high-ranking person, a captain, still did not have the mind (pendek akal) when she spread the letter in the chat group,” he said.
As a result of the exposure, Zulfarhan was moved from the room he was in to a different room to avoid an ambush by the university.
Justice Azman also noted that an intervention from a medical officer from a private clinic in Bangi could have saved Zulfarhan, as well as hospitals or clinics that had directly contacted the police if there was suspicion that a patient was abused.
“But the doctor had blindly accepted that the deceased was involved in a blow-up during his training and that the blows affected his whole body including his private parts but not his face,” the judge said.
Yesterday, Justice Azman sentenced six UPNM students to 18 years in jail each for the culpable homicide of Zulfarhan who died from injuries caused by a steam iron four years ago.
They are Muhammad Akmal Zuhairi Azmal, Muhammad Azamuddin Mod Sofi, Muhammad Najib Mohd Razi, Muhammad Afif Najmudin Azahat and Mohamad Shobirin Sabri, including Abdoul Hakeem Mohd Ali who was charged with abetting the first five.
Zulfarhan’s nightmare began on May 21, 2017, when he was interrogated by a group of students over accusations of him stealing Muhammad Akmal’s laptop.
The interrogation escalated into abuse involving a steam iron and on June 1, 2017, Zulfarhan was pronounced dead at Hospital Serdang.
Justice Azman said while the prosecution had successfully proven that the accused persons had caused grievous hurt to the victim by using a steam iron, the court did not find an intent for murder.
“The court is satisfied that the striking of the steam iron on the body had caused the victim’s death but this did not constitute a premeditation of murder.
“All six of you, with common intention and the abetment of the sixth accused, had together caused the injuries on the deceased with no intent of murder,” he added.
The six stood trial for murder under section 302 of the Penal Code but based on the defence, Justice Azman said the case had proven elements of section 299 instead, which was punishable under section 304(a) of the Penal Code where they face a maximum imprisonment of 30 years and are liable to a fine.
“I could not imagine how it must have been because it would have hurt if the steam iron hit your hand… imagine it on one’s sensitive parts?
“Although you are young offenders, your action is just like that of a hardcore criminal.
“I empathise with the regret and sadness your parents must have felt,” the judge said prior to sentencing.
The court ordered for the jail time to run from their date of arrest.
Meanwhile, the group — with the exception of Mohamad Shobirin — together with 12 others, were found guilty of voluntarily causing hurt to Zulfarhan to extort a confession from him over the laptop theft.
They were charged with intentionally causing hurt to the victim, to obtain a confession that he had stolen a laptop, under section 330 of the Penal Code, read together with section 34 of the same code, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment and a fine.
“The defence has failed to raise reasonable doubt where the prosecution had proven its case against them.
“You are all found guilty under section 330 for causing hurt to the deceased to get the confession from him,” the judge said.
The 12 are Mohd Hafiz Fauzan Ismail, Mohamad Lukhmanul Hakim Mohd Zain, Ahmad Shafwan Berdal, Muhammad Amirul Asraff Mala, Luqman Hakim Shamsuri, Muhammad Sufi Mohd Mustapha, Noriznan Izzairi Noor Azhar, Muhamad Ashraf Abdullah, Muhammad Danial Firdaus Azmir, Muhammad Hasif, Muhammad Adib Iman, and Mohamad Syazwan.
For the offence under section 330, Justice Azman sentenced each of them to three years in jail from the sentencing date.
For the five men who were convicted for both section 304(a) and section 330, Justice Azman ordered for the jail time to run concurrently.
The court also allowed a stay of execution for offenders convicted under section 304 pending appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Datin Kalmizah Salleh and N. Joy Jothi appeared for the prosecution.
The accused persons were represented by lawyers Amer Hamzah Arshad, Datuk Seri M. Ramachelam, Datuk Ranjit Singh Dhillon, Datuk Hazman Ahmad, Zamri Idrus, Fadly Hashim, and Datuk Hazizah Kassim.