Wife of dead detainee seeks justice with plea to Suhakam

Janagi-Nadarajah-Dr-Aishah-Bidin
N Janagi, 40, wife of T Benedict who died in police custody, hands over the memorandum to Suhakam commissioner, Dr Aishah Bidin.

KUALA LUMPUR: The wife of a detainee who died in police custody today asked the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) for help to determine what caused his death and for action against the police officers who neglected his health.

Janagi Nadarajah, 40, sobbed as she told Suhakam Commisioner Dr Aishah Bidin that she had pleaded with the policemen who arrested her husband Benedict Thanilas, 44, to look after him as he was seriously ill.

“I told them he was severely ill and will not be able to survive in the lock-up without proper care.

“But they told me to look after my family at home while they would care for my husband in prison,” said Janagi at the Suhakam office here where she handed over a memorandum.

She was accompanied by Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) project coordinator Mohammad Alshatri.

Janagi said the policemen should have known better seeing how severely sick he was and should not have placed him alone in the lock-up.

She had explained to the police that his medications should be given on time, which she felt they had failed to do so despite what they had said initially.

Benedict was found unconscious in his cell on July 10 at the Jinjang Detention Centre and pronounced dead at Hospital Kuala Lumpur at 6.06am.

He had suffered from diabetes, hypertension and heart problems which required him to take eight types of medications daily and four insulin shots.

Benedict was said to have undergone bypass surgery in 2006 and suffered a stroke a few years later, which made it difficult for him to walk.

Questioned by Aishah if Benedict’s body had any visible injuries, Janagi said he had some bruises on his elbow, ankle and head.

However, Janagi was informed by the doctor who performed the post-mortem that Benedict sustained the injuries in a fall.

“According to the CCTV footage provided by the police, my husband was seen going to the toilet twice early that morning and upon returning the second time he looked like he was struggling to breathe, and he then collapsed.

“The doctor said the bruising was the result of the fall and there were no signs of physical abuse,” said Janagi.

The preliminary post-mortem results showed Benedict had died from acute myocardial infarction or heart attack.

She said she received a call from Benedict on July 7 to tell her that he was going to be transferred to the Sentul police headquarters for his statement to be recorded and that he was feeling feverish and had body aches.

Suaram in the memorandum called upon Suhakam to investigate the standard operating procedure of healthcare of detainees, to pressure the government to ensure detainees’ rights to proper healthcare and to support their call to establish an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission, among others.

Benedict was taken in for investigations for suspected drug dealing and was questioned for 12 days under the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985, and was supposed to be detained for 60 days.

Benedict was previously arrested in May 2016 when he was found guilty of drug possession and jailed for two months in Sungai Buloh but he did not complete his sentence as he was severely ill.

“He was admitted into ICU because of his heart condition and the judge replaced the jail sentence with a RM3,000 fine on the family’s appeal,” said Mohammad.