By Bernama | Malaysiakini

Six students of Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM) escaped the gallows but were sentenced to 18 years’ jail for homicide not amounting to the murder of UPNM cadet officer Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain four years ago.

They are Muhammad Akmal Zuhairi Azmal, Muhammad Azamuddin Mad Sofi, Muhammad Najib Mohd Razi, Muhammad Afif Najmudin Azahat, Mohamad Shobirin Sabri, and Abdoul Hakeem Mohd Ali.

Justice Azman Abdullah also ordered them to serve the sentence from the date of their arrests on June 1, 2017.

Of the six accused, five were charged with the murder of Zulfarhan under section 302 of the Penal Code which carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

Abdoul was charged with abetting the murder under section 109 of the same act, which carries a similar sentence.

The judge, in his decision, however, said the court found all of the accused guilty under section 304(a) of the Penal Code of causing injuries to the deceased with no intent of murder.

This section carries imprisonment for a term of up to 30 years, and also being liable to a fine, upon conviction.

The court also sentenced five of the accused, except Shobirin, together with their 12 friends after finding them guilty of injuring Zulfarhan.

Shobirin was previously charged with the same offence but was acquitted of the charge at the end of the prosecution’s case.

The 12 others are:

  1. Mohd Hafiz Fauzan Ismail
  2. Mohamad Lukhmanul Hakim Mohd Zain
  3. Ahmad Shafwan Berdal
  4. Muhammad Amirul Asraff Mala
  5. Luqman Hakim Shamsuri
  6. Muhammad Sufi Mohd Mustapha
  7. Noriznan Izzairi Noor Azhar
  8. Muhamad Ashraf Abdullah
  9. Muhammad Danial Firdaus Azmir
  10. Muhammad Hasif
  11. Muhammad Adib Iman
  12. Mohamad Syazwan

They were found guilty of deliberately injuring the victim to coerce a confession from him that he had stolen a laptop, as charged under section 330 of the Penal Code.

Justice Azman ordered the sentence for Muhammad Akmal, Muhammad Azamuddin, Muhammad Najib, Muhammad Afif, dan Abdoul Hakeem for both the culpable homicide and injuring charges to run concurrently.

“Meanwhile, for the other 12 accused, the court hereby sentences them to three years’ jail starting today,” he said.

The judge, however, allowed a stay of execution of the jail sentence for the 12 accused pending appeal.

Justice Azman in his judgment said the jail sentence imposed on all the accused was not only to give a painful lesson to the accused but also to create fear of punishment to others.

“If they were only punished with a good behaviour bond (as applied by their lawyers), it will not have any impact on the people. Zulfarhan Osman was their friend, but we also have to think about his parents and family.

“Looking at the body of the deceased, I cannot imagine the pain when the steam iron was pressed on his body, let alone on his sensitive parts. I don’t know how to categorise the perpetrators. They are like ruthless criminals.”

The judge also said he was saddened by the fact that all the accused, who were on the path to becoming military officers, could no longer continue their studies at the university.

In mitigation, lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad representing the first and second accused — Muhammad Akmal Zuhairi and Muhammad Azamuddin — applied for a lenient sentence for his clients, saying they were excellent students.

“The first accused had also represented the prison in a Quran memorisation competition,” he said, adding that the crime committed was their first and that they truly regretted it.

Lawyer Azizul Shariman Mat Yusoff representing several other accused applied for his clients to be punished with a good behaviour bond on grounds that they were young and only 21 when the crime was committed.

Kuala Lumpur Prosecution Director Kalmizah Salleh, on the other hand, pressed for punishment that was appropriate and proportional to the gravity of the offence committed to deter others from committing the same crime.

All the accused committed the offence in room 03-05, Jebat dormitory block, UPNM between 2.30am and 5.30am on May 21, 2017, and in room 04-10 of the same dormitory block between 4.45am and 5.45am on May 22 the same year.

Zulfarhan succumbed to his injuries at Serdang Hospital on June 1, 2017.

His mother, Hawa Osman, 58, when reading the victim impact statement from the witness box before the court passed the sentence, said the death of her son had a huge impact on her and the entire family.

She said her son’s death caused her health to deteriorate due to persistent stress and grief.

“The incident traumatised me especially in letting my other children be independent and to continue their tertiary education far from home.

“I was also traumatised to allow them to enter uniformed bodies and the death of my son really gave me a negative perception of such uniformed bodies.

“I want an appropriate punishment to be handed down to the accused who had caused me to lose my eldest son, the love of my life.

“It is hoped that the punishment will also open the eyes and minds of the public to prevent it from recurring so that other parents will never have to feel how it was to lose their son, the hope of the family,” she said.

When met outside the courtroom, Zulfarhan’s father, Zulkarnain Idros, 57, said he personally had forgiven all the accused, who were his son’s coursemates at UPNM.