Body buried after case registered against police

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Feb 14, 2014.

Islamabad -The Kohsar police station have registered a murder case against two of its policemen in connection with the death of a man in their custody, while a specially constituted medical board on Thursday issued an interim report about the man’s death.

Sabir Masih was found dead in the lock-up at Kohsar police station on Tuesday.

Assistant Inspector General of Police (Operations) Sultan Azam Temuri confirmed to The Express Tribune that a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against Assistant Sub-Inspector Atif Shah and head constable Muhammad Arshad on charges of murder under section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code. The two policemen are believed to have been on duty at the time the incident took place.

Temuri said police have started investigations after the FIR was registered late on Wednesday on the complaint of Gulzar Masih, father of the deceased.

Masih, a sanitation worker at the Capital Development Authority who lived with his family in a slum in F-6, was being kept in the Kohsar police lock-up on a physical remand on suspicion of theft.

He was found hanging from a ventilator rod in the lock-up’s toilet on Tuesday morning, according to Kohsar police. Police officials have claimed it was a suicide but Masih’s family has alleged the death was caused by police brutality and torture.

Meanwhile, a five-member medical board constituted for the case issued an “interim” report on Thursday.

Dr Tanveer, the Medico-Legal Officer at the Polyclinic Hospital, told The Express Tribune that the board did not find any marks of violence, bruises or lacerations on the dead body except a “ligature” or strangulation mark around the “upper middle of the neck.”

The board has attributed the mark to the shalwar waistband police claimed Masih used to hang himself.

“The board concluded that the death resulted from strangulation which led to the obstruction of the upper respiratory tract,” Tanveer said. “The man died of hypoxia or oxygen deprivation.”

A skin sample from the side of the deceased’s neck and samples from his liver, spleen and kidney have been sent to Lahore for forensic and toxicology analyses respectively, the doctor said. The analyses will test for presence of disease in the skin tissue and of any traces of poisonous chemicals in the organs.

The medical board put the time of death between 5 and 6:30 am on Tuesday and the death occurred from strangulation within five to six minutes.

The time of death coincides with accounts from one of the three inmates who shared the lock-up with Masih the night before his death. According to police officials who are privy about the details of the case, two of the three inmates said they were sleeping and had no information about the death.

One of the inmates, a 70-year-old man, however, told police during initial investigations that he had woken up to offer Fajr prayers on Tuesday and had found Masih visibly agitated, pacing around the lock-up.

According to police officials, the man said he remembers Masih going to the toilet and opening the water tap before the man fell asleep again.

Masih’s family had claimed there were wounds on his head and bruises on his shoulders and feet. But Tanveer said the marks were only due to “lividity” or the purplish-blue colouring that appears on a human body due to blood pooling in the blood vessels after death or after death.

Masih was buried at the H-9 graveyard on Thursday after police had registered the murder FIR, said Karamat Masih, the deceased’s uncle.

A judicial inquiry in to the case has been initiated and is being conducted by the Assistant Commissioner (City) Muhammad Ali, according to Jawad Paul, the Chief Commissioner of the Islamabad Capital Territory.

“The proceedings of the judicial inquiry are under way,” Paul said. “Let’s wait for the findings of the inquiry before further comment.”

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