PETALING JAYA, Feb 15 — Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) urged Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas today to withdraw the prosecution’s appeal to overturn a coroner’s verdict that P. Karuna Nithi had died in custody due to beatings by police and other detainees in 2013.
LFL executive director Latheefa Koya said the action of the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) must be in line with Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) 2018 election manifesto that promised to look into all complaints relating to death in custody.
“The AGC should act as a guardian of public interest and take all death in custody seriously and not act as the defender of public authorities to help them escape liability.
“We really do not understand the insistence of pursuing the appeal as this is not a case where somebody just died of neglect but a case of clear abuse that is practically murder,” she told reporters in a press conference at the human rights group’s office here.
Latheefa pointed out that the manner in which the appeal was being pursued was as if the prosecution was attempting to protect someone.
“The inquest is where you want to find out the truth. You (Tommy) are supposed to find out the truth.
“Who are you defending?” she questioned, adding that LFL had sent letters to the AGC on August 2018 and January 2019 for reconsideration.
Karuna Nithi was first remanded at Tampin district police station on May 28, 2013 following an altercation with his wife.
The 42-year-old engineer was found dead in a lock-up at the police station four days later on June 1, 2013.
Karuna Nithi’s elder brother, P. Elam Sezhian expressed anger and grief at the government, especially the AGC for continuously pursuing the appeal as there has been no action taken against those involved in the custodial death.
“I want justice. It has been more than five years and yet no action has been taken against those responsible.
“What does the AG want, I do not know,” he said.
The hearing of the appeal to overturn the Coroner’s verdict is set for February 21 at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya.
An inquest was formed following public outcry and CCTV recordings from Karuna Nithi’s lock-up cell showed him being assaulted by police and other detainees while in the cell.
In January 2015, the Seremban Coroner’s Court ruled that he was beaten to death by police and inmates after he had been found with 49 injuries, mostly bruises from blunt objects, all over his body.
Forensic pathologist Dr Sharifah Safoorah Syed Alwee’s post-mortem report that the victim had died of “fatty change of liver” despite visible signs of abuse on the deceased’s body, including a jaw fracture was rejected by Coroner Jagjit Singh.
Public prosecutors later filed to re-open the inquest for the second time but the Coroner maintained its verdict in April 18, 2016 before another revision of the decision was dismissed on October 9, 2017 by the High Court.