Call for special prosecutor to probe death in custody case

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KUALA LUMPUR: DAP MP Charles Santiago has urged Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi to appoint a special prosecutor immediately to investigate the death of Balamurugan Suppiah in a lock-up last month.

Santiago said Zahid, who is also the home minister, has to take responsibility when deaths in custody take place.

He said Zahid cannot run away from his responsibilities in overseeing the police force.

“Balamurugan’s wife and daughter need to know the circumstances of his death, and so does the public.

“In the interest of justice and to increase public confidence in the police force, the home minister must appoint a public prosecutor to work with the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC),” he said at the Dewan Rakyat today.

Santiago referred to Zahid’s written reply, which stated that the government would not form any committee as the EAIC was investigating the matter, as “reeking of a hands-off approach and smacks of irresponsibility and dereliction of duty”.

“Despite the number of deaths in police custody, no policeman has been charged in court.

“EAIC lacks prosecution powers.

“It does not serve as a deterrent to torture in police custody.”

Santiago said that earlier this week, the home ministry had indicated that there were 1,654 cases of deaths in custody since 2010, averaging 19 deaths per month.

Last month, while in court, Balamurugan vomited blood. This prompted the magistrate to deny remand and instead give an order for him to be taken to hospital immediately.

However, he was brought back to the police station lock-up where he later died.