A Malaysian court on Wednesday sentenced an Islamic school warden to 18 years' imprisonment for causing the death of a 7-year-old boy, a government lawyer said, in what is believed to be one of the worst student abuse cases in the country.
Hanif Mohamad Ali tied up, beat and strangled the boy at a private Islamic school in northern Perlis state where his job was to discipline children. The schoolboy suffered a seizure before falling into a coma and died in hospital three days later.
Deputy public prosecutor Noorin Badaruddin said Hanif, 26, escaped the death penalty after the court on Monday reduced a murder charge to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
This came at the end of the prosecution case on the grounds that they had failed to prove a prima-facie case against Hanif, she said. The warden subsequently pleaded guilty to the lesser charge.
Noorin said Hanif wanted to punish the boy on suspicion that he stole money from a classmate, but it got out of hand. She said the cause of death in March last year was due to a lack of oxygen following the strangulation.
Judge Mohamad Zaki Abdul Wahab said he hoped the sentence would be a lesson to educators to be more careful in meting out punishment.
"What should be done must be under the concept of education and not inhumane. It must not be reckless and excessive," Zaki was quoted as saying by national Bernama news agency. Bernama said Hanif, wearing a skullcap, was seen crying and embracing his friends after the judgment.
Prosecutors had said Hanif was know to be strict during his two years' at the school's boarding hostel, but had no record of student abuse. His role was to discipline children and prevent any untoward behavior.