KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyers representing K Selvach Santhiran, a witness who implicated police in the R Gunasegaran death-in-custody inquest, today alleged that police ‘sabotaged’ a habeas corpus hearing to free him.

Farida Mohammad, one of his counsels from the Lawyers for Liberty civil group, said before the court could hear their habeas corpus application yesterday, police moved Selvach from the Bukit Jalil lock-up to the Batu Gajah detention camp in Perak.

Selvach was being held on 60-day remand order under Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985,

“Last week, the police filed an affidavit-in-reply to our habeas corpus application and said that Selvach has been in the drug distributing business since 2007,” she said at the entrance of the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters.

“Our contention is that the allegation by the police is baseless, a mere afterthought. If they were really monitoring him for drug crimes, then why arrest him right after the Gunasegaran trial and not earlier? ” asked Farida.

“The police seem to have an ulterior motive for arresting him. And now we believe they’re trying to sabotage the habeas corpus application,” she said.

She said that Selvach, who arrested together with Gunasegaran, was cleared of drug charges when his urine tested negative in 2008.

Farida claimed the police were uncooperative and did not allow lawyers to meet Selvach and were unhelpful in handing over his detention order so that another habeas corpus can be filed.

Meanwhile, Suaram coordinator E Nalini said police should stop the practice of shifting prisoners to different camps in an attempt to thwart a habeas corpus hearing.

“This is a trend by the police to thwart attempts by lawyers to file habeas corpus applications. The police and the Home Ministry are breaching the rights of detainees,” she said.

“How can they do that before a habeas corpus is heard?” she asked.

Selvach’s wife S Saraswathy, 39, who was present with Farida, said she felt helpless after her husband was detained.

“Until today I don’t know why my husband is being detained. The police promised that we can meet him but today they tell us he has been moved to Perak,” she said.

Saraswathy said she had difficulty in making ends meet, and now that he has been moved to Perak, it was almost impossible for her to meet Selvach.

“Earlier, he called me and asked me to bring him some food but now I don’t know what to do. I feel so helpless, I must find a way to look after the family without him,” she said.

Open verdict on Gunasegaran’s death

On Oct 25, Selvach, 39, was arrested and detained under the Dangerous Drugs Act hours after the court delivered an “open verdict” into Gunasegaran’s inquest.

A group of men claiming to be policemen came to Selvach’s house and handcuffed him in front of his wife and children and allegedly assaulted him outside his home.

When questioned by his wife, the men allegedly hurled verbal abuses at her before briefly flashing a card claiming they were policemen.

Selvach was one of the witnesses in the inquest and testified that the police had injured Gunasegaran while in custody.

Coroner Siti Shakirah Mohtarudin delivered an “open verdict” into the cause of Gunasegaran’s death. The latter died in police custody two years ago.

Gunasegaran, 31, a toddy shop assistant, collapsed while his thumbprint was being taken between 6.45pm and 7pm on July 16, 2008, at the Sentul police headquarters and was pronounced dead at 7.40pm at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital the same day.

Siti Shakirah ruled that there were two possible causes of Gunasegaran’s death. One was based on the autopsy, which stated that Gunasegaran had died of a drug overdose.

She said the second possible version was based on the testimony of another suspect who allegedly saw a policeman kick and beat Gunasegaran, which led to his death.

By Teoh El Sen, Free Malaysia Today, Tue, 14 Dec 2010 13:21