SINGAPORE: A man on trial for murdering a leader of an illegal cigarette syndicate was acquitted of murder on Thursday (Jun 18) and convicted of a lesser charge, after the judge found that there was reasonable doubt in the prosecution's case.
Miya Manik, a 31-year-old Bangladeshi national, was originally accused of slashing syndicate leader Munshi Abdur Rahim's leg with a chopper during a clash between two groups vying for control over a field near a dormitory.
The cut inflicted on the night of Sep 24, 2016, near Tuas View Dormitory, caused the death of the 32-year-old Bangladeshi victim, the murder charge read.
However, the judge found that there was reasonable doubt in both cases put forward by the prosecution. She convicted Manik of a lesser charge of voluntarily causing grievous hurt using a dangerous weapon with common intention.
The penalty for the lesser offence is either life imprisonment, or a maximum 15 years' jail, caning and a fine.
If Manik had been convicted of murder, he could have faced either the death sentence, or life imprisonment and caning.
The victim died after the two illegal cigarette syndicates in September 2016 clashed over taking control of a field considered the "jewel in the crown" of Manik's syndicate, as it generated the highest volume of sales.
The victim was knifed multiple times, but the wound that caused his death was a fatal injury to his left leg, the court heard.
Manik was tried on a murder charge with two alternatives: First, for murder if he was responsible for the fatal injury or second, for murder with common intention with two others, known only as Aziz and Mitho, who were not arrested.
The prosecution urged the court to convict Manik, pointing to the "vicious" and "repeated" attacks on the victim.
Defence lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam and Chooi Jing Yen called for their client to be acquitted instead, saying that the prosecution had failed to discharge its burden of proof and that its "own witnesses could not even give a coherent account of events".
"UNSAFE" TO CONCLUDE MANIK INFLICTED FATAL INJURY: JUDGE
Justice Valerie Thean said she accepted that Manik had attacked the victim with a chopper, but said the prosecution's case on the first charge failed because it did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Manik had inflicted the fatal injury.
"No reconstruction or expert evidence was adduced for the camera footage obtained from a bus parked near the location of the incident," said Justice Thean.
She said that the bus camera footage relied on heavily by the prosecution was not of a high quality, with some dark scenes and obscured views that did not show the important details.
"It is unsafe to conclude from that footage that Manik had inflicted the fatal injury," said the judge, who had asked the prosecution to replay some of the footage in court on Thursday.
The prosecution also failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt on its alternative case, that Manik, Aziz and Mitho had a common intention to inflict the injury that killed the victim.
Instead, the facts pointed away from this, said Justice Thean, as witnesses had given evidence that the plan was not to kill the victim. There was no indication that Manik had an incentive to kill the victim, instead of merely injuring him, the court heard.
The judge said medical evidence showed that most of the wounds on the victim were relatively superficial, apart from the fatal injury and a wound to the back.
A doctor on the stand had agreed with the defence that most of the injuries were insignificant, noted the judge.
She found, instead, that Manik, Aziz and Mitho shared a common contention to attack the victim with their choppers, to cause grievous hurt.
The charge was amended and all parties will return for sentencing next month.