Deaths in police custody: Suhakam starts probe

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The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has began probing the mysterious deaths of two suspects detained at the Putrajaya police station lockup which occured over a month, said a Suhakam commissioner today.

"We visited the Putrajaya hospital on July 9 and have spoken to the hospital authorities.

"We have also written letters to the police on this matter," Prof Hamdan Adnan told reporters at the Suhakam headquarters in Kuala Lumpur after an inquiry session into detention under the Internal Security Act.

"We will make an appointment with the police [and] are doing our own investigations to see if there has been a case of police abuse at the lockup," he said, adding that the police should also conduct their own investigation into the matter.

However, since there is a possibility of a lawsuit arising from the first death, he said the commission did not want to reveal the full details of their investigation.

Time needed

On June 21, S Tharma Rajen, 20, a waiter from Kuala Lumpur, died at the Putrajaya hospital after he was sent there from the lockup. The official cause of death was pneumonia and a second postmortem stated that he had died from tuberculosis.

Tharma Rajen was arrested in early April under Ops Copperhead a police sweep on Indian gangsters was transferred from three other lockups before he ended up at the Putrajaya lockup under the Emergency Ordinance.

Another suspect, M Ragubathy, died at the Putrajaya hospital on July 28 after spending more than a week at the lockup. He was later confirmed to have died of congestive heart failure.

The authorities however claimed that there was no foul play in both cases and said the detainees died of natural causes.

Hamdan also said it was not right for certain quarters to say the commission was not doing anything about the matter.

"It takes time for us to get all the details like the postmortem reports," he said.

Lawyer for Tharma Rajen's family P Uthayakumar had criticised the human rights body when commissioners were not present on July 1 to accept a memorandum on the youth's death.

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