PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal was informed today that the conduct of six former students of Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM), who tortured UPNM Naval Cadet Officer Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, resulting in scalding burns covering 80 per cent of his body from 90 instances of steam ironing, constituted an extreme act.

Deputy public prosecutor K. Mangai submitted that evidence indicated all the accused, at the direction of their friend, took turns pressing the steam iron onto Zulfarhan's body, except for the face and the top of his hands, causing him to sustain 90 burns that led to his death.

The five former students are Muhammad Akmal Zuhairi Azmal, Muhammad Azamuddin Mad Sofi, Muhammad Najib Mohd Razi, Muhammad Afif Najmudin Azahat, and Mohamad Shobirin Sabri as the first to fifth respondents, while their friend, Abdoul Hakeem Mohd Ali, is the sixth respondent.

According to Mangai, former UPNM students, prosecution witness (PW) 24, Ahmad Senabil Mohamad, and PW25 Mohd Syafiq Abdullah were the eyewitnesses in this case. Their testimony indicated that the first to fifth respondents alternately pressed the steam iron onto the deceased, while the instruction to do so was given by the sixth respondent.

“Hence, the appellant (public prosecutor) urges this court to impose the death penalty on all six respondents as a deterrent to the community, emphasising the rejection of bullying and extreme abuse.”

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“We additionally urge the court to reinstate the original charge of murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code,“ she asserted during the prosecution’s appeal against the 18-year prison sentence handed to the six UPNM students convicted of causing the death of Zulfarhan, without intent to kill.

Mangai further contended that PW6, a forensic medical expert from Serdang Hospital, Dr Salmah Arshad, who conducted the autopsy on the deceased, stated that the scalding burns were the cause of death.

“According to PW6, out of the 90 burn marks on the deceased’s body, 29 of them were third-degree, indicating the most severe level of burns, with visible wet muscle tissue and bleeding. These burn injuries would lead to death even with treatment,“ she explained.

Mangai further emphasised that the victim's mother had submitted a victim impact statement, revealing her trauma and reluctance to allow her other children to join uniformed organisations due to her negative perception, due to the tragic loss of her son's life.

“The victim’s mother appeals for a just sentence to act as a deterrent to the defendants and to raise awareness within society, aiming to prevent the recurrence of such tragic incidents,“ she added.

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Meanwhile, Muhammad Najib's lawyer Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, submitted that the trial judge had failed to appreciate his client's defence and did not consider the evidence of the 20th defence witness, Muhammad Alif Farhan Aerosni.

“He is a crucial witness for my client, and in previous testimony, the witness stated that he was with Muhammad Najib on the dates of the incident (May 21 and 22, 2017) to study in their friend’s room,“ said the lawyer.

Mohamad Shobirin's lawyer Datuk Hazman Ahmad, argued that his client's admission to pressing the steam iron on Zulfarhan's foot was acknowledged, but it had occurred only once.

“Can pressing the iron once be categorised as a criminal act? If it was indeed done, it was done without intent,“ he said, adding that the 18-year sentence imposed on his client was excessive.

On Nov 2, 2021, the High Court sentenced six former university students to 18 years in prison after they were found guilty of causing the death of Zulfarhan, without the intent to kill.

Previously, Muhammad Akmal, Muhammad Azamuddin, Muhammad Najib, Muhammad Afif, and Mohamad Shobirin faced charges of murdering Zulfarhan under Section 302 of the Penal Code, which carries a mandatory death penalty upon conviction, while Abdoul Hakeem was charged with abetting under Section 109 of the same code, which carries a similar penalty.

However, the High Court found all six accused guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 (a) of the Penal Code, which carries a prison sentence of up to 30 years and a fine if the act is done with the intention of causing death or causing such bodily injury is likely to cause death.

The former students, now aged 28, were accused of committing the offence in a room at Asrama Jebat, UPNM, between 4.45 am and 5.45 am on May 22, 2017. Zulfarhan died at Serdang Hospital on June 1, 2017.

The trial before a three-member panel of judges chaired by Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail, alongside Mohamed Zaini Mazlan and Datuk Azmi Ariffin, will resume tomorrow.