Call for special prosecutors to handle custodial death cases

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PETALING JAYA: Appointing a special and bipartisan prosecutor to handle custodial death cases can ensure investigations are conducted in an independent and transparent manner, a legal expert has suggested.

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan speaking to FMT, said the special prosecutor should be appointed from among ordinary lawyers known for their integrity and bipartisan stand, instead of those from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC).

“This can perhaps help correct the perception that the government is not serious in combating this problem (custodial deaths).

“It can also ensure that any investigation conducted is free from internal pressure, if there is any,” said the former member of the Malaysian Bar Council.

Syahredzan was commenting on Klang MP Charles Santiago’s call for Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to immediately appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case of S Balamurugan, who died while in police custody last month.

Santiago said Zahid, who is also Home Minister, needed to act responsibly in cases of deaths in police custody.

Balamurugan, 44, was arrested on Feb 6. However while at court the next day for a remand hearing, the suspect’s lawyer, according to a police report, claimed Balamurugan appeared weak, was unable to walk, and had facial injuries. He was also reported to have vomited blood while in court.

The magistrate ordered for Balamurugan to be taken to the hospital immediately and rejected the man’s remand application.

Balamurugan was however not taken to hospital and was later found dead in the lock-up of the Klang Utara police headquarters on Feb 8.

A second post-mortem revealed Balamurugan died from “coronary artery disease with multiple blunt force injuries”.

Lawyers for Liberty’s Executive Director Eric Paulsen when contacted, suggested that Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali instruct the most senior prosecutor to handle such cases.

“Now they (the government) don’t take custodial death cases seriously because there are hundreds of such cases.”

Santiago, speaking at a press conference in Parliament on Wednesday, said no one had been arrested so far although there were well over 1,600 deaths in custody.