KUALA LUMPUR — A magistrate today closed her courtroom to all except the families of two teens who were charged with the murder of 23 people in a tahfiz school fire.

Media personnel and families of the victims were ordered to leave by magistrate Siti Radziah Kamarudin, as both accused are minors.

The two teens, both aged 16, were charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code, but will escape the death penalty because of their age.

“They are being tried jointly and are facing 23 counts of murder, one for each victim of the fire,” deputy public prosecutor Othman Abdullah told reporters after today’s hearing.

Neither teen entered a plea and Siti Radziah later set their case for mention on November 28.

The two are among seven teens accused of intentionally setting fire to the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz school in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month, killing 21 students and two teachers.

One of the teens was released today as there was not enough evidence to prosecute him, Othman added.

Five of the seven were also charged separately under Section 15(1) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

Three of them, between the ages of 12 and 17, claimed trial to the charge, while the remaining two, both 16-year-olds, pleaded guilty.

The 12-year-old was allowed bail of RM3,000, while the elder two were denied bail.

The minors may not be named for legal reasons.

One of the suspects, Mohd Sharulnizam Ikmal, 18, will be charged separately as an adult with drug abuse, but the charge is pending a pathology report.

He allegedly tested positive for methamphetamine and THC (cannabis), and faces a maximum two years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of RM5,000 if convicted.

– M’kini