Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Custodial death claim: 2nd witness 'missing'

(Malaysiakini) The second witness in the M Krishnan's death-in-custody case has vanished without a trace, raising suspicions that he was threatened against coming out, said a prominent human rights lawyer.

NONEN Surendran (right), who is representing Krishnan's family in seeking a second post-mortem to determine the cause of death, said they do not know where the witness is and are not able to contact him.

"We have lost our second witness in suspicious circumstances. We suspect someone may be preventing him from coming forward," Surendran said when met today.

"It seems common now for witnesses in cases related to death in custody to be threatened and even arrested by the authorities."Krishnan, who was arrested at a friend's house late on Jan 2 night, died on Jan 7 while being detained at the Bukit Jalil police lock-up.

His family has claimed that he was assaulted, based on bruises and cuts on his body, but both the police and the hospital have contended that his death was due to a stomach ulcer.

NONEKrishnan's friend, taxi driver A Sargunan (right), 34, had come forward last Tuesday as the first witness in the case.

Sargunan claimed that the police had ordered them both to lie on their stomach before proceeding to kick and stomp their backs while wearing boots.

Surendran also said the police have made the situation unduly difficult by forcing the family to secure a court order for a second post-mortem to be carried out on Krishnan's body.

“All they need to do is to say 'yes' to a (second) post-mortem. Instead, the police (were) deceitful (in saying) that the family needs to get a court order.
“What surprises me is they (police) still refuse to give their consent after an eyewitness has forward, because now it is in everyone's best interest to have a second post-mortem.”

'Justice for Krishnan'

Surendran pointed ouNONEt, though, that the delaying tactic has done little to dent his clients' resolve to pursue justice to honour Krishnan's (left) memory.

The people from Krishnan's kampong are “extremely upset” and are expected to turn up in force at the Kuala Lumpur court complex tomorrow to protest his death, said Surendran.

“I'm glad the family is quite resolute. His mother said that, no matter how long it takes, she wants the truth out... not just for the family but also for the community.”

Krishnan's family is expected to apply for a court order tomorrow to allow the second post-mortem to be carried out.

Police response
In response to Surendran's claim, the police urged the lawyer to inform them if the witness is missing.

Prosecuting division senior deputy director Razali Basri pointed out that the police so far have no record of any witness "disappearing" in the probe into Krishnan's death.

"There are a number of witnesses. We don't know which one he (Surendran) is referring to," he told Malaysiakini.

"It is normal for witnesses to go on holiday or go (out of town), but if he feels a witness has really gone missing then he should let us know.

"As a lawyer, he should report back to us so an investigation can be carried out."

Razali also urged Surendran to verify his facts first before making sweeping statements regarding the status of witnesses or investigations.

"If you are not sure of certain facts, you can always confirm with the authorities. If your statement can lead to any unhealthy speculation, please avoid it as it is unfair to accuse the authorities of things without being sure of your facts," he added.