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Supreme Court upholds life imprisonment for arsonist sentenced to death

05/25/2023 09:48 PM
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Convicted arsonist Li Kuo-hui (left) is pictured when he appears at the Taiwan High Court in Taipei on Aug. 2, 2018. CNA file photo
Convicted arsonist Li Kuo-hui (left) is pictured when he appears at the Taiwan High Court in Taipei on Aug. 2, 2018. CNA file photo

Taipei, May 25 (CNA) The life imprisonment verdict handed down by the Taiwan High Court in the case of an ethnic Chinese man from Myanmar, who was initially sentenced to death for setting a fire in his rented residence that killed nine people, was upheld by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, rejecting an appeal from prosecutors.

The man, Li Kuo-hui (李國輝), who claimed other tenants in the apartment building in Zhonghe District, New Taipei, often taunted him, set the fire on the evening on Nov. 22, 2017, by pouring gasoline on the staircase to the fourth floor of the building and igniting it, after which he fled the scene.

The blaze engulfed the building's fourth and fifth floors and led to the death of nine tenants.

After being arrested, Li admitted to committing arson but denied his intent was to commit murder.

The New Taipei District Court concluded in its ruling in 2018 that Li set the fire out of anger causing the deaths of nine people, and sentenced him to death for murder.

The defendant then appealed the ruling and saw it upheld by the High Court three times, including the first trial at the High Court and two retrials after being sent back by the Supreme Court. The verdict was upheld after it was determined Li had no mental disorders when he set the fire and was wanted by the police for two earlier counts of arson in May and June, 2017.

However, the Supreme Court ordered a third retrial by the High Court, after determining that the High Court's second retrial did not fully explain or examine Li's motive or ability to defend himself during the trial.

In its third retrial in December 2022, the High Court concluded Li set the building on fire with the intention of killing a tenant identified by the surname Chen (陳), who survived the blaze, and as such the killing of the other nine tenants was "indirectly intentional" and so could not be construed fully deliberate.

As a result, the third trial at the High Court downgraded Li's crime and instead sentenced him to life imprisonment, while maintaining the life long deprivation of civil rights handed down earlier by the District Court.

Prosecutors appealed the ruling but the Supreme Court upheld the High Court's third retrial verdict and denied the appeal on Wednesday, ending the case.

(By Hsieh Hsing-en and Chao Yen-hsiang)


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