Act against cops who destroyed evidence in death in custody case, urge NGOs

From left, former Suaram executive director S Aruchelvan, Suaram programme coordinator Muhammad Alshatri Abdullah and EDICT chairman M Visvanathan.

PETALING JAYA: Two groups have accused the police of compromising important evidence such as CCTV footage and important records for an ongoing inquest looking into the death of a man who died in police custody at the Jinjang police lock-up.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and Eliminating Death and Abuse in Custody Together (EDICT) said an inquest held at the coroner’s court last June 26 saw the case’s investigation officer (IO), Shahruddin Rajab, testifying that the medical records and entry registration for the year 2017 had been disposed of.

The IO also said CCTV footage for the period of June 26, 2017 till July 9, 2017 were no longer in storage at the Jinjang lock-up.

He justified this by saying CCTV footage could only be kept for a period of two months at a time.

A police report was lodged against the IO by Suaram’s programme coordinator Muhammad Alshatri Abdullah.

The group alleged that this was a deliberate compromise of evidence and was against the Police Act 1967 and its provisions.

“In the inquest, it is really important for the case to have all the records, so that the cause of death can be identified.

“So, we are accusing them of committing a crime under the Police Act since the case is still ongoing and they can’t destroy the documents needed for it,” said Alshatri.

Benedict Thanilas, 43, died in police custody after being arrested on suspicion of drug distribution on June 29, 2017.

Based on reports, he was arrested under Section 3(1) and Section 6(1) of the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985.

During the time of his arrest, he had a history of health complications, including high blood pressure and diabetes. He was required to take eight different types of medication daily. He was also required to have three insulin shots during the day and one in the evening.

He was reported to have suffered breathing difficulties and was brought to Kuala Lumpur Hospital on the morning of July 10, 2017 but died shortly after.

Suaram and EDICT also said the investigations should not be carried out by the Criminal Investigation Unit at the Sentul district police headquarters as Benedict’s death involved the Narcotics Division there.

They said this would result in officers involved in the investigation facing a potential conflict of interest.

The group is urging immediate action against those responsible for disposing of the records and CCTV footage.