Suhakam counts on inquest to find real cause of Nigerian PhD student’s custodial death

Suhakam commissioner, Jerald Joseph, speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur December 20, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Suhakam commissioner, Jerald Joseph, speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur December 20, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) will not conduct its own inquiry into the custodial death of Nigerian Thomas Orhions Ewansiha last July.

Suhakam commissioner Jerald Joseph said it will rely on a public inquest to determine the real cause of the July 9 death of the 34-year-old doctorate student who was in the custody of immigration officers from July 4.

“So the inquest now will be the way to determine the real cause of death,” he told a press conference at the Suhakam headquarters here today after visiting the immigration depot where Thomas had spent his final days.

Jerald said the coroner has the authority to dig deep to find information surrounding and leading up to Ewansiha’s death.

The in memoriam message tweeted by Limkokwing University of Creative Technology. — Picture via Twitter/LimKokWing_MY
The in memoriam message tweeted by Limkokwing University of Creative Technology. — Picture via Twitter/LimKokWing_MY

The inquest is scheduled to start on January 2, 2020 at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex, news portal Malaysiakini reported previously, adding that local lawyer Rajesh Nagaraja is representing Thomas’ widow, Blessing Uhunoma Eriamiator.

Nigerian news outlet, PUNCH, previously reported Blessing as claiming that her husband was a victim of “murder”, though there were no actual quotes provided to substantiate her remark.

Jerald said Thomas’ body is being kept at the Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz (HCTM) mortuary and will only be claimed by the latter’s family after the inquest ends.

Thomas was a former PhD student at the Limkokwing University in Cyberjaya when he was arrested by immigration officers during a night raid on July 4 at the Desa Aman Puri area in Kuala Lumpur and taken to the Bukit Jalil immigration depot.

Immigration authorities claimed he suffered a seizure during his sleep and was given immediate medical treatment before being rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

An autopsy on July 9 at HCTM revealed no physical injuries.

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