Malay man charged with placing idols at mosque in Selangor, which sparked tensions

Helmee Othman was charged under Section 295 of the Penal Code for desecrating a place of worship.
Helmee Othman was charged under Section 295 of the Penal Code for desecrating a place of worship.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KLANG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A 37-year-old Malay man was charged at the magistrate's court in Selangor for placing three idols in a surau (small mosque) last week.

Helmee Othman was charged under Section 295 of the Penal Code for desecrating a place of worship.

He is alleged to have committed the offence at the Sabilul Huda surau in Taman Pendamar, near Klang town in Selangor, last week.

Tensions rose when the idols were found at the Muslim prayer house, amid a heated, ongoing by-election in Semenyih, which is also located in Selangor state.

The small idols of deities were found on a wall of the mosque last week, according to Malay language daily Kosmo last Saturday (Feb 23), sparking public anger.

In the court before Magistrate Roslizi Sulaiman on Wednesday (Feb 27), Helmee was accused of committing the offence between 4pm and 4.15pm on Feb 20.

Helmee was accused of stealing an idol belonging to one Cheong Lin Chai on Feb 20, for which he was charged under Section 379 of the penal code for theft.

He faces a jail term of up to two years or a fine or both for the charges under Section 295.

In addition, he is also liable to be jailed for up to seven years or fined, or both, if found guilty of stealing the idol.

The accused pleaded guilty to all three charges.

Helmee was defended by Ms Nur Aida Md Zainuddin. The lawyer said Helmee must be sent for mental assessment before his plea was recorded.

"Someone who is in the right frame of mind would not have done what he did, which was a very sensitive act," she said.

But prosecutor Mohd Fairuz Johari said the prosecution has the discretion to send the accused for an assessment of his mental health.

"But at this stage, there isn't any evidence in the form of documentation or anything else to state that he has mental issues," he added.

He said that he would leave it to the court to decide on the next course of action for Helmee.

Judge Muhammad Azzam ordered Helmee to be sent for psychiatric evaluation at the mental health institution, Hospital Bahagia, in Ulu Kinta, Perak.

The court fixed March 27 for Helmee's mental health status report to be evaluated in court.