Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Brothers jailed for torching church

Two brothers have been jailed for torching the Metro Tabernacle Church (AP)

A Malaysian court has sentenced two Muslim brothers to five years in prison for torching a Christian church in Kuala Lumpur during the height of a dispute over whether non-Muslims can use the word "Allah" to refer to God.

The firebombing was the first in an unprecedented string of arson attacks and vandalism at places of worship last January that threatened decades of religious harmony in the Muslim-majority country.

Eleven churches, a Sikh temple, three mosques and two Muslim prayer rooms were assaulted before the tensions abated.

Two ethnic Malay Muslim brothers in their 20s were arrested and placed on trial for the January 8 attack, which partially gutted a Protestant church.

The attack came days after some Muslims were angered by a court verdict that allowed Christians to use the word Allah in Malay-language publications.

On Friday, Komathy Suppiah, a Kuala Lumpur district court judge, convicted both suspects of "mischief by fire" with the intention of destroying a place of worship.

They had faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, but Mr Suppiah sentenced them to five years each.

Both men had earlier pleaded not guilty. They testified they were at a restaurant when they heard people planning to attack the nearby church. They said they went to the church and saw unidentified men smashing its window and setting it ablaze.

One of the suspects, Raja Muhammad Faizal Raja Ibrahim, 24, was detained by police after he sought medical treatment for burn injuries. He said he suffered the burns at a barbecue after he and his brother, Raja Muhammad Idzham, 20, left the church area.

Judge Komathy, however, ruled that their testimony was riddled with inconsistencies.

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