The family of a man who doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire in Gahdhu Police station in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll has claimed he was tortured in police custody.
President Mohamed Nasheed has called on the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) to investigate the death, and determine if there was any criminal negligence of behalf of the police.
24 year-old Ibrahim Afsal of Fulooniyage was arrested by police on after he allegedly disturbed people during Friday prayers.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the man set himself ablaze after pouring petrol onto his body from a bottle stored in the police station, suffering severe burns. He was transfered to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) but died during treatment on Saturday.
”His family did not complain about it before, but now they have said they want a further investigation of the body,” Shiyam said.
”His parents do not wish to bury him yet,” he told Minivan News, adding ”there were no injuries found on the outside of his body, as he was very badly burned.”
Shiyam said Afsal’s body was now stored in the mortuary, allowing his parents to conduct a further investigation of the body.
Afsal’s brother, Ahmed Tholal, told Minivan News that he did not believe what police had said, or the hospital report.
”We know he was tortured because there are injuries on the outside his body,” Tholal said. ”Half an hour before he set himself on fire, people near the area claimed they heard him shouting and screaming for help.”
Tholal said that injuries on Afsal’s hands showed it appeared he had been handcuffed.
”We suspect that he was handcuffed, and a handcuffed man could not have taken a bottle of petrol and poured it over himself,” Tholal said. ”We will not allow him to be buried before we finish investigating his body.”
He said his family was deciding whether to bring burn experts from overseas, or to take Afsal’s body abroad to conduct a postmortem examination.
”Several days before this incident occurred police arrested him on other charges, and when he was released he came home and showed us bruises on his neck, claiming police tortured him,” Tholal said. ”He also claimed police officers had sprayed a whole bottle of pepper spray into his face.”
He said that today Police Assistant Commissioner Ali Rasheed and a group of police officials had met his family “and admitted that police were irresponsible during the incident.”
”Now the government has said they will help our family with everything to do with the case, even help us to take our brother’s body abroad,” he said. ”They said they will keep his body stored until we finish investigating.”
Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that President had asked the PIC to investigate the case because of the accusations made by Afsal’s family members.
”I do not believe the torturing culture is there anymore in custody,” he said, ”there might be some people who have awful intentions,”
The PIC said it would not comment on the case as it was currently under investigation, while the Maldivian Detainee Network failed to comment at time of press.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said Afsal’s family met with Assistant Commissioner Ahmed Fayaz. This has been corrected to Assistant Commissioner Ali Rasheed.