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Death in lock-up: Police trying to cover up the truth, claims rights group

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A civil rights group alleged that police are trying to cover up the truth from an inquest into the death of Benedict Thanilas, who died in police lock-up two years ago.

This comes after the group - Eliminating Death and Abuse in Custody Together (Edict) - learned that the police had disposed of the evidence in the case

Edict director M Visvanathan said the matter was made known during the inquest hearing at the Coroner's Court in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, when a police officer who investigated Benedict's death produced two letters to the court.

According to Visvanathan, one of the letters stated that records on the movement of detainees into and out of the Jinjang centralised lock-up facility for 2017, and the original book that records medication for detainees, had been disposed of.

The other letter, he added, informed the court that CCTV recordings at the facility for dates between June 26, 2017 and July 9, 2017, were no longer being kept by the facility management as they only keep CCTV recordings for two months.

Benedict was arrested by police officers from the Jinjang district police headquarters on June 29, 2017, to facilitate a probe into a drug trafficking case, before he was rushed to Kuala Lumpur Hospital for breathing difficulty on July 10 that year.

Benedict needed to take eight types of medicines daily for his diabetes, high blood pressure and heart condition. He had also undergone heart by-pass surgery.

"What is odd in this case was that the police came to the court to testify that records that are relevant to tell about the victim's condition had been disposed of," Visvanathan told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.

"This was despite them knowing that an inquest will be carried out. And what is more interesting is that CCTV is the best evidence to show the deceased's condition before his death.

"So, it is only proper for the police, if they are investigating any such cases, to have this kind of evidence kept and produced in court."

Right to life

Visvanathan, who acted as legal counsel for the victim's family in the inquest, also questioned the need for having a police officer from Sentul district police headquarters to investigate Benedict's death as he was arrested by officers from the same district.

Meanwhile, Parti Sosialis Malaysia's central committee member S Arutchelvan urged Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador to take action.

"Firstly, Article 5 (of the Federal Constitution) states the right to life. That means when a detainee dies in lock-up, it is a very serious offence because a life has been taken away.

"In this case, there is a clear cover-up because CCTV evidence and records had been disposed of when the case is not over. Thus, there is an element of a criminal cover-up."

Malaysiakini has contacted Bukit Aman corporate communications team for response.

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