Man dies in custody, relatives reject police claim that it was suicide

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Feb 13, 2014.

Islamabad – Relatives of a man who had died in police custody at the Kohsar police station on Tuesday filed a complaint with the same police station to register a murder case against the police, alleging the man was tortured to death by the law-enforcement authorities.

Meanwhile, a medical board constituted to prepare the autopsy report of the deceased man, Sabir Masih, failed to deliver on its promise of releasing the report on Wednesday.

Dr Tanveer, the Medico-Legal Officer of Polyclinic and member of the medical board, said two of the board’s five members were unavailable on Wednesday. He said the report will now be ready on Thursday morning.

Masih, 32, was found dead in the Kohsar police station’s lock-up on Tuesday. He was on a physical remand, after being arrested on February 5 on the suspicion of stealing batteries that powered signboards in the Jinnah Super market.

Police claimed Masih committed suicide in the toilet inside the lock-up by hanging himself from a ventilator’s rod using the drawstring of his shalwar. However, Masih’s family alleged he was tortured brutally during the police remand. Masih’s body was shifted to the Polyclinic Hospital after police said they were alerted to his death by three other inmates who shared the lock-up with Masih.

Masih’s uncle, Karamat Masih, told The EXpress Tribune there were wounds on Masih’s head and bruising on his shoulders and feet. But these claims were denied by Dr Tanveer, who said initial check-up of the body revealed only marks of strangulation around his neck.

He said the five-member medical board which consists of doctors from Polyclinic and the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, including Dr Naseer, a forensic specialist, will likely issue the post-mortem report on Thursday morning.

After protests from the Christian community in Islamabad on Tuesday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also ordered a judicial inquiry to look in to the case.

Senior police officials said the judicial inquiry is being conducted and police will take actions based on the inquiry’s findings in a transparent manner.

The Senior Superintendent of Police Muhammad Rizwan gave similar assurances to the family of the deceased when he and other police officers visited them on Wednesday, Karamat Masih said.

“He told us the police will register a First Information Report addressing our concerns,” Karamat said. “We have lodged a complaint with the Kohsar police on grounds of police torture in custody.”

Masih’s family said he worked in the sanitation department of the Capital Development Authority and is survived by his wife and two daughters.

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