PUTRAJAYA: The lawyer of detainee S Balamurugan who died while in policy custody told a public hearing that the police had failed to obey a magistrate’s instruction to take his client to hospital.
Gerard Lazarus told the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) hearing that he was “frustrated” over Balamurugan’s arrest and subsequent death, declaring that “it does not make sense at all”.
“The magistrate had instructed (the detainee be taken to hospital). What will happen (in future) if the magistrate’s instructions are not followed?” he said.
Relating what he had observed at the court that day, Lazarus said Balamurugan was ill on Feb 7 when he was at the Shah Alam magistrate’s court for the remand hearing.
“He (Balamurugan) did not look normal. Weak (and his) face was down. I lifted his head (and) he asked for water. I gave him mineral water and he drank. He then vomited on my hand and into the bottle. There was blood in the bottle.
“His eyes and forehead were swollen. He looked really ill. I said he needed immediate medical attention.”
Two witnesses at the hearing also spoke of how Balamurugan had vomited, saying his eyes and face were visibly swollen during a court appearance on a police application for remand, hours before he died.
The four-day EAIC hearing, which ended today with a second session scheduled later, was held to determine the death of Balamurugan while in police custody during the early hours of Feb 8.
Yaacob Md Sam chaired the hearing.
Balamurugan was arrested on Feb 6 at Jalan Batu Belah in Klang and died in the early hours of Feb 8 at the Klang Utara district police headquarters.
Lazarus said he was told by other detainees – Taminarasan and a boy with the surname Ang, who were arrested on Feb 6 together with Balamurugan as well as one Kanapathy – that Balamurugan was beaten by the police.
“They said Bala had the worst beating,” he added.
After Balamurugan vomited, Lazarus said, the magistrate rejected the remand application on the grounds that the detainee was unwell.
The handcuffs on Balamurugan were removed but he was not allowed to go home, the lawyer said.
The three detained with Balamurugan – Taminarasan, Ang and Kanapathy – were remanded for seven days.
Lazarus said during the remand hearing, one of the other detainees produced in court fainted.
“An ambulance was called to take the detainee to hospital. I was hoping Balamurugan would have been taken to hospital, too, but that did not happen.”
He said he was told the police would take Balamurugan to the Klang Utara district police headquarters.
When he asked a police investigating officer about the reason for Balamurugan’s arrest, he claimed the officer said he did not know but the police were targeting Taminarasan.
Lazarus said Balamurugan’s brother Balraj called him at about 4pm on Feb 7 to inform him that his brother was still in police custody.
Hearing this, Lazarus advised the family to lodge a police report.
He spoke to a police officer who told him that Balamurugan would be re-arrested.
“I said OK, but told him to take him (Balamurugan) to hospital first. He told me yes, we will do that.”
However, around midnight, Balraj informed Lazarus that he heard rumours of Balamurugan’s death at the Klang Utara district police headquarters.
Lazarus said he had asked the police officers involved how Balamurugan died.
“I was told Balamurugan was re-arrested. Under whose instruction was he re-arrested? I don’t think there is a report for the re-arrest.”
Lazarus said he also lodged a police report over Balamurugan’s death because he was upset over the death.
“Upset with the police. It does not make sense he died just like that. Don’t want such things to happen again,” he said.
Another witness who testified at the hearing was magistrate Nik Nur Amalina Mat Zaidan, who said she allowed Balamurugan to remain seated during the remand hearing on Feb 7.
“(Balamurugan’s) eyes were closed. (It was like) he did not know where he was. When I called him, he did not respond.
“He did not open his eyes throughout the proceedings. His face and eyes were swollen,” she said.
She then asked assistant investigating officer Muhammad Nabil Abd Manaf if Balamurugan had been beaten, to which she said Nabil heard her question but did not give an answer.
“I told him to take Bala to hospital. Nabil answered ‘baik Puan’ (yes, Puan).”
She added the police should have followed her order to take Balamurugan to hospital for treatment.
A total of 16 witnesses have been called for the hearing since Monday.