KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — A witness in the trial of a teenager who is charged with the murder of 23 people in a fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz centre almost three years ago told the High Court that he was with the accused and other friends smoking cannabis (ganja) before the fire broke out.

The third defence witness, Imran Fazley Abu Bakar, 19, said six friends including the accused came to his house before all of them rode their motorcycles to a hut in Taman Balak, Datuk Keramat here to smoke cannabis between 1 and 2am on September 14, 2017.

“Before going to Taman Balak, I waited for my brother to return home from the Sentul night market to go together because the ‘weed’ was with him. We (eight friends) went to the hut together on motorcycles.

“We reached the hut together but two of my friends, Shahrul and Haikal went to another place. I do not know where they went,” he said during the examination-in-chief by lawyer Mohd Haijan Omar representing the teenager at the defence trial here today.

Imran Fazley said they were at the hut for about 20 minutes before heading to a stall at the same residential area to ‘’lepak’ (hang out).

The second of four siblings added while at the stall, Shahrul and Haikal came back and discussed going to a snooker centre.

Mohd Haijan then handed over a piece of paper and a pen to the witness and asked him to sketch their sitting position at the stall.

Asked by the lawyer on who went to the snooker centre, Imran Fazley said seven of them went to play snooker except Haikal.

Mohd Haijan: After that, where did you go?

“We all went back to my house at 4am. My brother, the accused, another friend, and me went again to the hut to smoke cannabis at about 4.28am,” said the witness who helps his mother to run a chicken rice business.

On January 28, the High Court ordered the teenager to enter his defence for the charge after the prosecution succeeded in establishing a prima facie case against him, who was 16 when the tragedy occurred.

However, Judge Datuk Azman Abdullah acquitted and discharged another person charged with him, also of the same age, without calling for his defence.

The accused, now 19, had given his testimony from the witness stand on March 2 and 3.

They were jointly charged with murdering and causing the death of the 23 residents of the tahfiz centre at Jalan Keramat Hujung, Kampung Datuk Keramat, Wangsa Maju here, between 4.15am and 6.45am on September 14, 2017.

They were charged with 23 counts of murder each, framed under Section 302 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 34 of the same law, which provides the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

However, Section 97(1) of the Child Act 2001 states that a death sentence shall not be pronounced or recorded against a person convicted of an offence if the child is under the age of 18 and the court shall order the person to be detained at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Section 94 of the same law also empowers the court to order the parents or guardians of the child offender to pay fine or compensation.

The trial before Judge Datuk Azman Abdullah continues tomorrow with the prosecution cross-examining the witness. — Bernama