A teacher at a Malaysian religious school has been charged with the murder of a seven-year-old student who was accused of stealing seven ringgit ($2.30), police said on Friday.
"Hanif Mohamad Ali has been charged in court with the murder of Saiful Syazani Saiful Sopfidee and is being held without bail," Mohamad Nadzri Hussain, Arau district police chief in northern Perlis state, told AFP.
"He was charged on Thursday and if he is found guilty of the murder, Hanif will face the death penalty, which is carried out by hanging," he added. A state court official confirmed the charge, but declined further comment.
The Star newspaper said Saiful was admitted to a public hospital with head injuries last month after he was allegedly tied up and beaten by the teacher for two hours for stealing from a classmate. He died two days later, it said.
Hanif's lawyers had tried to block media coverage of the trial but magistrate Nurshahida Abdul Rahim rejected the application, the Star reported.
Mohamad Nadzri said that police had almost completed their investigation and that a date for the murder trial was expected to be set on May 13.