Family of man who died in Johor police lock-up wins close to RM500,000 in compensation

Lawyer for the plaintiffs, M. Visvanathan and Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur‘s family at the Johor Baru High Court December 19, 2019. — Picture by Ben Tan
Lawyer for the plaintiffs, M. Visvanathan and Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur‘s family at the Johor Baru High Court December 19, 2019. — Picture by Ben Tan

JOHOR BARU, Dec 19 — The High Court today awarded the family of Syed Mohd Azlan Syed Mohamed Nur who died in police custody with 61 wounds on his body five years ago RM448,000 in compensation and damages.

The family had initiated civil proceedings in 2015 against three policemen and 11 others, including the inspector-general of police and the government.

The money covered their court costs, dependency claims, malfeasance in public office, exemplary, bereavement, funeral and special damages.

Syed Mohd Azlan, a 25-year-old welder, was arrested in the early hours of November 3, 2014 on suspicion of rioting and possession of a weapon two weeks earlier.

He was taken to the police station lock-up in Sungai Rengit, Johor and found unconscious five hours later during a transfer to the Kota Tinggi district police headquarters. He was sent to the Bandar Penawar health clinic where he was pronounced dead.

In 2018, the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EAIC) said police personnel had beaten Syed Mohd Azlan while in custody, adding that it found 61 wounds on his body that were consistent with defensive injuries.

The EAIC, in its statement, reiterated its findings showed there was foul play in Syed Azlan’s death.

Three policemen — Weddrin Mojingkin, Joshua Perait and Muhammad Bunyamin — were charged under Section 304(b) of the Penal Code with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which is punishable with jail up to 30 years and a fine.

However, they were found not guilty at the Sessions Court. The High Court this year upheld their acquittal.

Despite their release from the criminal proceeding, High Court Judge Datuk See Mee Chun ruled in favour of Syed Mohd Azlan’s family today.

In her ruling, the judge said the police are duty-bound to uphold the law and keep the nation’s peace and security.

“All action towards that must be in accordance with the Federal Constitution and law,” she said.

See quoted from a 2008 case involving custodial assault and police brutality against a man who was suspected to be involved in a crime.

She said that an award of damages must reflect the sense if public outrage, emphasise the importance of the constitutional right and the gravity of the breach and deter future breaches.

Syed Mohd Azlan’s family was represented by lawyer M. Visvanathan, while senior federal counsel Jailani Abdul Rahman acted for the government.

Visvanathan later told reporters that the court decision sent a strong message that injustice will not be tolerated.

“A full stop must be made,” he said.

Syed Mohamad Shariff Syed Mohamed Nur, brother to the deceased, expressed his gratitude to the court and hoped the authorities would learn the proper treatment to accord detainees.

The late Syed Mohd Azlan’s family present in court today were his father Syed Mohamed Nur Ali, 72; mother Sharifah Khalilah Syed Sulaiman, 61; and younger brother Syed Mohamad Affendi, 38.

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