EAIC told not to probe death in custody cases

Lawyer M Visvanathan says the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission can only investigate alleged misconduct of law enforcement agencies, including the police. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer has urged the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) to stop its inquiries into the death of persons in custody and leave that function to the coroner’s court.

Lawyer M Visvanathan said the EAIC could only investigate alleged misconduct of law enforcement agencies, including the police.

“Family members of the deceased will be helpless when the EAIC refuses to allow its findings to be tendered as evidence in their civil claim,” he told FMT.

He said this in response to the EAIC’s denial that its findings on the death in police custody case of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur was classified as secret.

EAIC chairman Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim said on Aug 16 that the report on Syed Mohd Azlan’s death was “never classified as confidential”.

“It had been published and uploaded in all EAIC’s media platforms and accessible by members of public,” Aziz said in a statement.

Visvanathan, who represents Syed Azlan’s family, said he had only requested the identity of the person who could testify and tender the EAIC’s report in the civil claim.

“But they took it to mean that we want the identity of witnesses who gave evidence at the EAIC investigations,” he said.

Visvanathan said under the Criminal Procedure Code it was mandatory for the coroner’s court to conduct investigations when a death in custody occurred.

“To date, no inquest has been called by the coroner’s court nor has there been any direction by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to initiate an inquest into the death of Syed Azlan,” he said.

Visvanathan said the EAIC, on its own volition and own admission, had stated that it initiated investigations into the death of Syed Azlan and made public its report on Oct 30, 2015.

He said since there was no inquest, Syed Azlan’s family wanted to rely on the EAIC report as that was the only finding that could be tendered in support of their claim.

The lawyer said the AGC objected to the inclusion of the EAIC report in the bundle of documents in the suit.

“Since it is disputed and we want to rely on it, we want someone from the EAIC to tender this document,” he said.

However, he said, the EAIC was objecting on the grounds that they could not reveal the report.

“Our stand is that the EAIC could do so in the interest of justice,” he said.

On Aug 15, Visvanathan claimed he had sent a letter to the EAIC in June to get a full report of the inquiry to assist in the civil case trial, but the EAIC stated that all the information was confidential.

Syed Azlan, a 25-year-old welder, was arrested in the early hours of Nov 3, 2014, and taken to the police station lock-up in Sungai Rengit, Johor. He died a few hours later.

Following an investigation, the EAIC said police personnel had beaten him while in custody, adding that it found 61 wounds on his body that were consistent with defensive injuries.

The EAIC, in its statement, reiterated its findings showed there was foul play in Syed Azlan’s death.

Three police personnel – Weddrin Mojingkin, Joshua Perait, and Muhammad Bunyamin – were charged under Section 304(b) over the death. The case is pending at the Johor Bahru High Court.

Syed Azlan’s family had filed a civil suit naming 14 respondents, including the trio, on Nov 1 last year to claim damages for his death.