High court upholds death sentence for arsonist who caused nine deaths

04/14/2021 04:22 PM
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Li Kuo-hui. CNA file photo
Li Kuo-hui. CNA file photo

Taipei, April 14 (CNA) The Taiwan High Court on Wednesday upheld the death penalty handed down to Li Kuo-hui (李國輝), an ethnic Chinese from Myanmar, for starting a fire in an apartment building in Zhonghe, New Taipei in November 2017 that resulted in the deaths of nine people.

Li, in his 50s, claimed to have heard other tenants making fun of him from his rented room in the building.

Early in the morning of Nov. 22, 2017, Li went out with an empty bottle which he filled with gasoline. At 8:32 p.m. that day, he returned to the apartment building and poured the fuel on the staircase to the fourth floor, ignited it and fled.

The blaze rapidly engulfed the fourth and fifth floors, where there were 25 small units with wooden partitions.

The New Taipei District Court said in its ruling in 2018 that Li set the fire out of anger, taking the lives of nine innocent people and therefore sentenced him to death for murder.

The district court's ruling was upheld by the High Court.

However, in July 2020 the Supreme Court remanded the case to the High Court for a retrial.

The High Court ruled Wednesday that Li was guilty of murder with direct intent, High Court spokeswoman Huang Yu-ting (黃玉婷) said Wednesday.

Considering Li had no mental disorders when he set the fire and was wanted by the police for two earlier counts of arson when the incident took place, the High Court decided to uphold the previous ruling including the lifetime deprivation of civil rights and the death penalty.

However, the ruling can still be appealed, Huang said.

Li was previously indicted for two counts of arson by New Taipei prosecutors in connection with two fires in May and June 2017, but went on the run.

No one was hurt in the earlier incidents but two motorcycles were damaged in the second one.

(By Liu Shih-yi and Evelyn Kao)

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