Second death in Sri Lankan police custody within three days

A 42 year old father of two has become the latest victim to die in Sri Lanka’s police custody. Family members of the victim are convinced that their loved one was beaten to death. Police claim that he succumbed to injuries after jumping off a police vehicle while under arrest.

This is the second death in police custody within three days. On 3 June, 21 year old Tamil youth, Chandran Vithushan died after arrest by police in the eastern town of Batticaloa.

Ali Khan, a Muslim manual worker died on 7 June at the Panadura Base Hospital in the western province after arrest by police in the morning. He was father to a four-year-old autistic daughter and a 2 year old son.

He had gone to a nearby shop at 9am to Pallimulla, about 500 yards away from his residence.

'Qquarantine law'

Two policemen who came in a motorcycle had chased Ali Khan and assaulted him, according to eyewitness. A police vehicle arrived at the scene and bundled him in.

Police say that he had been arrested for violating the quarantine law and island wide travel ban. Police claim that Ali Khan jumped off the moving vehicle and succumbed to injuries around 6pm.

“The sub inspector and police sergeant say that the suspect opened the rear door of the moving jeep and jumped out of it while he was being brought to the police station,” said police spokesperson Ajith Rohana in a pre-recorded video statement.

The victim later died in hospital while been enlarged on bail, he added. However, Attorney-at-Law Ajith Rohana failed to make it clear how a man under police custody from the arrest in the morning to his death in the evening was also released on bail.

'They are telling lies'

The family vehemently rejecting the police version of events say that Ali Khan was severely beaten while he was taken in the jeep.

“They are telling lies. He had been beaten up and thrown out of the jeep,” a weeping Mrs Haseena told police officers who visited her after the tragedy.

She says that a police officer called her to inform of Ali Khan’s arrest while travelling in the vehicle.

“I could hear him pleading ‘don’t beat me, don’t beat me!”

Around midday the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the police station had telephoned her. She had been asked to come to the hospital.

She was unable to speak with her husband when she visited him.

“His eyes were swollen and blackened. I couldn’t talk to him. They have smashed his head and muddled it up,” said Mrs Khan.

She alleged that the police who later visited the family had coerced Ali Khan’s sister to sign a document to corroborate that her brother was a drug addict.

Two interdicted

Meanwhile, on Monday (7), the Police Headquarters told media that Sub Inspector Palitha Kannangara, the OIC of Crime Branch of Panadura North has been interdicted along with Sergeant Sumanasena over negligence of their duty.

“At a glance it is obvious that these police officers have not taken the necessary steps for the suspect’s safety,” Police spokesperson Ajith Rohana said in his pre-recorded statement.

Sri Lanka has recorded at least 5 deaths in custody within the first six months of 2021. There is no record of any conclusive investigation.