KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian fireman who died after being seriously injured during a riot at a Selangor Hindu temple last year was killed by two or more people whose identities are unknown, a government inquest ruled on Friday (Sept 27).
The coroner's court also said that the death of Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, 24, was the result of a criminal act.
"The blunt chest trauma (on Adib) was not caused by himself or (an) accident but a criminal act by two or more persons unknown," said judge Rofiah Mohamad.
His injuries were caused by unidentified individuals who had dragged him out of the emergency medical rescue service vehicle, she added.
"I am also of the view that the police and the (riot police) had failed to control the riot and this had contributed to Adib's death," she said.
Based on the court's findings, she said she would order the inspector-general of police and the attorney-general to conduct further investigations into the case and proceed with prosecution if necessary.
The inquest, which ran for 41 days and saw 30 witnesses being called to give their statements, was held after Mr Adib's death on Dec 17 last year.
The case had become a controversial rallying call for Malay Muslims, with claims that the Pakatan Harapan government was trying to hide the truth behind the death, and blame it on a vehicular accident in the temple premises.
Mr Adib became critically injured after he and his team members from the Subang Jaya fire station were deployed to a riot at a Hindu temple on Nov 27.
Earlier that day, some 50 Malay thugs armed with weapons, allegedly hired by a developer that owns the land on which the temple sits, had stormed the temple, threatening devotees and demanding that they leave the premises.
The developer denied hiring the thugs. After learning of the temple's storming, thousands of ethnic Indian Hindus gathered at the temple, causing a second round of rioting.
Mr Adib suffered broken ribs and multiple organ injuries after being attacked. He was taken to hospital for further treatment, but died on Dec 17.
Supporters of Mr Adib gathered outside the Shah Alam court complex ahead of the verdict, carrying banners demanding justice for the slain fireman.
Mr Abu Bakar Mohamed, president of a group called Gagasan Rakyat Malaysia 7 which champions Malay interests, said: "We are fighting for justice for Adib. We urge Attorney General Tommy Thomas to step down.
"We also urge the government and the opposition to stop playing up racial and religious sentiments," he was quoted as saying by The Star.
Police chief Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador said police will investigate Adib's death.
"Prior to the inquest, we discovered that we did not have enough evidence for prosecution. However, we will re-look the matter following the inquest," he told a news conference. He said police will also examine whether standard operating procedures (SOP) were followed in controlling the riot.
Racial tensions between Malays and Indians rose after Mr Adib's death, with accusations that the Hindu temple rioters killed the fireman. Four suspected Muslim terrorists were also arrested in Malaysia for planning attacks to avenge his death.
The day after the riot, a temple faction claimed that Mr Adib's injuries were not caused by rioters, but that he had been run over by a fire engine. A spokesman for the Selangor Fire and Rescue Department had said that Mr Adib had been dragged out of his vehicle before being assaulted, resulting in conspiracy theories over his demise.
Among those present in court on Friday were Mr Adib's family members, including his brother Mohd Ashraf and his fiancee Nurul Najihah Mohd Radzi.
Adib's mother, Asma Aziz, 52, said: "Although relieved with the decision, I still can't get my son back. So I hope that the individuals involved would be arrested as soon as possible and brought to justice."
"I want to see the faces of those who beat up my son," she told reporters when met at her house in Alor Setar, Kedah.
Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, Subang Jaya Fire Station chief Syed Shahril Anuar Syed Sulaiman and Mr Adib's fellow firemen from the station were also present.
"I hope Malaysians can accept this decision well. Do not let this be politicised, do not bring up religious and racial issues," Said Ms Zuraida. "This was an issue of a Malaysian who died on duty."
Opposition pact Parti Islam SeMalaysia and Umno said the verdict was "fair."
"This decision has restored confidence in the judicial system," deputy PAS Youth chief Ahmad Fadhli Shaari said outside the court.
But he also urged Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to step down, or at the very least take a leave of absence, until juctice for Adib is achieved. The opposition parties had during the inquest accused the A-G of interfering in the case.
Said Umno Youth exco member Muhammad Faiz Hashim: "We are of the view that the attorney-general should step down and at the very least be put on leave."