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KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — Family members of 22 ethnic Indian men detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) in 2019 pleaded for mercy and demanded justice for their kin whom they said were assaulted and tortured while in the Jelebu Prison.
Some of the family members held a press conference yesterday, where they narrated events told by their detained family members: how they were allegedly beaten with plastic pipes, sticks, chairs and other objects, as well as had their private parts pepper-sprayed.
Some said they were even contemplating suicide to end their misery.
They also expressed fear that their family members may ultimately face the fate which befell milk trader A. Ganapathy, who died in police custody in a case which received widespread attention focusing on custodial death and alleged police brutality on inmates.
Elisha Teh, a family member of detainee B. Kalaiarasan, said that the 22 men who were detained for suspected involvement in organised crimes, were brought to the Jelebu Prison to be quarantined.
“One of the prison officers ordered the detainees to sit. When they were sitting, suddenly an officer sprayed chilli on their faces. Without any justification for it, and when this happened the other detainees who were nabbed with my brother-in-law began asking as to why they were sprayed and asked for an explanation from the prison personnel.
“When they were asking as to what was their fault until chilli spray had to be used, one of the officers beat them using a PVC pipe, still without any reason. As their hands were handcuffed by the policemen who brought them to the Jelebu Prison, they tried to avoid getting hit. When they were avoiding, the officers were still beating them and the others,” Teh said.
It is unsure whether the officers had used pepper spray containing capsaicin usually used for self-defence or non-lethal deterrent, or an actual chilli-based concoction.
She alleged that more officers then entered and beat up the detainees using canes, chairs, belts and others, after throwing “powder” on them.
The 22 detainees are all aged between 20 and 45 years old.
Teh said that the beating went on for over an hour, adding that after that, the 22 men were ordered to enter a room, undress and expose their buttocks after which the pepper spray was again allegedly used and sprayed on their genitals.
“After that the officer ordered the detainees to lie on the floor, naked and ordered them to place their hands on their backs while lying down. After all the detainees entered the room, they were punished non-stop from 5pm till 8pm. My brother-in-law and the other detainees had no means inside the Jelebu Prison to report the matter to their families.
“And after this happened, the prison officials did not take the detainees to hospitals for treatment. They were only given painkillers,” Teh claimed.
Teh said that the prison officials claimed to have been reacting to control a fight that had allegedly broken out among the detainees.
Kalaiarasan’s wife R. Laviniya said that it has been over a year since her husband was detained, and she is in the dark as to when he will return.
“I was three months pregnant when he was caught and until now he is not back. In Jelebu they beat him up brutally. They beat him until his back bled.
“Won’t I get justice for all these? I am always asking when he will be home. I only have him to talk to. My husband got beat a lot. He told me he would die inside the prison as they beat him so badly. When I met him the other day, his hands were bloody and there were pipe marks on his back. I was so upset,” Laviniya said, breaking down uncontrollably.
Rosni Kassim, whose son Nasaruddin Abdullah is among the 22, also pleaded to be allowed to see her son, saying that she has yet to see him since he was caught in 2019.
“Before this, his friends and their parents went to see him and said that Nasaruddin was beaten but I could not see him. Although I went to Jelebu and made a report I still could not see my son.
“I wanted to see my son but I could not. His wife just gave birth five months ago and he has never seen his child. I don’t know why they put him there but I definitely want to see my son regardless whether his wounds are small or huge. I definitely want to see my son,” Rosni said, also breaking down later.
S. Thulasi’s husband, S. Navinraj, was caught by the police merely three months into their marriage.
“They kept him there for 14 days saying it’s for quarantine. It is usually 14 days only but until now they have not released him from the Jelebu Prison. I don’t know what condition he is in. I have been calling the Jelebu Prison till now but they kept saying that the approval letter for my visitation is not out yet.
“I fear thinking what situation is he in. Everyone is saying that many got beaten badly. I am afraid my husband might be in a worse condition as I am not able to see him,” she said, adding that Navinraj was the only one supporting her and her father, before he was caught in December 2019.
For S. Athiletchumy, it was akin to a double jeopardy, as both her sons, S. Ravikumar and Karthik were detained and taken away.
“Yesterday Karthik called and said that he was beaten and had his fingers broken and asked if I had already lodged a report about what happened to him. He said his head was aching badly as he was badly beaten.
“He said despite his fingers being broken, he has yet to be brought to a hospital,” she added.
During the press conference, the media members were informed that only one of the 22 detainees was admitted to hospital, as he had developed tuberculosis.
Another mother V. Muniammah broke down when detailing her story, adding that her son, G. Kartik Rajah who was detained, did not have any prior police record.
“I don’t know why he was caught. He was fine before, then they took him to Jelebu [Prison] and beat him badly. There are markings on his body. They sprayed [chilli] on his penis. He said he cannot urinate and defecate. When he takes his shower, his body burns.
“Please find a solution to this case. They kept saying remand and one and a half years has passed by,” she said, adding that her son is still being investigated to date.
Muniammah said that she is hopeful that her son will be released, adding that the only time she could see him was when he was being ferried to the court in a police transport lorry.
“We want our children back. When we heard about Ganapathy’s case, we got very scared that our kids might end up like him,” she added.
The press conference was organised by an NGO called Sebaran Kasih, led by Pastor Prince Jon from the The King’s Tabernacle church in Cheras.
Prince told the press that the family members have engaged lawyers, but the next hearing for the case is only scheduled for August this year.
“So it’s a long time period and the families only got to know about their ordeal after two weeks. more than that actually. So it’s another few months down the road for them to even appeal,” he said, adding that half of the men have already been brought back to the Sungai Udang Prison in Melaka.
“So what we are seeing here, we don’t want another death to happen to anyone. The Indians are the minority in our nation.
“The Indians are being abused. They have not been taken care of and are mistreated in prisons and. Most of the deaths, based on what we have checked, involve Indians. Even though we are the minority, we are still Malaysians. We still come under the same government, we still have our rights. Our nationality is Malaysian so we ought to receive the same treatment as others,” Prince said.
He added that some of the family members have lodged police reports over the alleged abuse in custody.
Malay Mail is seeking a response from the Jelebu Prison, the Prisons Department, and the Home Ministry.
Ganapathy died on April 18 at Selayang Hospital after spending 12 days in police custody before being released and subsequently admitted there.
The police have since denied assaulting Ganapathy while in custody, and warned the public against making any comments on the matter or risk getting prosecuted for it.