2 jailed, 1 acquitted in Malaysian ritual killing

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - A Malaysian court Monday sentenced a man and his cousin to 10 years each in prison in the fatal beating of the man's parents during a ritual to expel evil spirits, but acquitted the main defendant by reason of insanity.

The three men, in their 20s, were charged with causing the death of the two relatives during a family gathering in an apartment in Kuala Lumpur in October 2008. The victims were beaten with brooms and motorcycle helmets to purge them of evil spirits and cure them of smoking habits and other problems. The victims were supposed to be revived afterward, but they did not survive the beatings, court officials have said.

A Kuala Lumpur court found Muhamad Fauzi Abdul Razak and his cousin, Muhammad Nizam Mohamad Ibrahim, guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced them to 10 years in prison, said public prosecutor Aidatul Azura Zainal Abidin. Muhammad Nizam is the son of the deceased.

The principal defendant, Muhamad Ilyas Abdul Razak, was acquitted of the charges but ordered to be sent to a mental hospital. He is the brother of Muhammad Fauzi.

"The court said he was insane at the time of the occurrence," Aidatul said.

Aidatul said she had sought the maximum penalty of 30 years for the two others but the court took into consideration that the accused were still young.

Muhammad Ilyas, 25, had testified that he was bestowed with powers from the leader of a banned cult to heal sicknesses and raise the dead. He had testified that he beat his uncle and aunt in a ritual to cleanse them of evil spirits that could have harmed the family.

A government psychiatrist testified that Ilyas was mentally unsound and had a bipolar mood disorder.

Superstitious beliefs are strong in the majority Islamic country. In villages, it is common for people to seek the help of spiritual healers for mental and physical illnesses, but their rituals are rarely known to involve violence.