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Outrage after disabled citizen ‘tortured’ to death in custody

By Hanan Al-Saadoun and A Saleh

KUWAIT: The death of Kuwaiti citizen Ahmad Al-Dhafiri in police custody a few days ago has angered his family, MPs and social media activists, even as Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Anas Al-Saleh ordered the formation of an independent committee to launch an investigation. The deceased’s family said 31-year-old Dhafiri, who was disabled, died while in custody at the drugs control department as a result of torture.

Saud Al-Dhafiri, a cousin of the dead man, said the family learned about his death on Dec 19 through Ahmad’s brother who works at the forensics department, after he saw papers about the body of his brother there, as he was missing for three days. Saud said when police were asked about the cause of death of Dhafiri, who was severely handicapped, they answered that the “file is confidential and the cause of death cannot be revealed”.

“We later discovered that they claim his death was due to drugs,” he said. Saud published a copy of an interior ministry report on social media that does not point to drug use, but to injuries suffered during confrontation with the police. He was later taken to hospital. Saud said Ahmad was beaten when he resisted police. He was then sent to the drugs control department without any clear proof that he used any drugs, where he died.

A police source told Al-Anbaa local daily about the contents of the interior ministry report about the incident that was sent to Mubarak Al-Kabeer criminal department. “We received what indicates a death case of a person at the drugs control department in Aswaq Al-Qurain area, so I, the officer in charge of Mubarak Al-Kabeer police station, went and found the deceased (A. M.) is a Kuwaiti citizen born in 1988. According to the claims of narcotics detectives, a person detained with him named (M. H.), an Egyptian, said the dead man told him he ingested substances that may be drugs, so a call was made to the deputy prosecutor, who asked to register the case as a suspected felony. Forensics was called, and the coroner also arrived,” the report said.

Information received by Al-Anbaa said a team of criminal detectives listened to the testimony of two officers and four policemen from the special missions division of public security, who arrested the citizen, to inquire about his case before he was sent to the drugs control department. The sources said criminal detectives also called in officers and non-commissioned officers from the drugs control department, who are still being questioned.

They added CCTV footage will be reviewed to learn about the entire incident, besides questioning the Egyptian who was detained with the deceased citizen, who claimed Dhafiri told him he swallowed a large quantity of what is thought to be drugs.

Saleh on Friday ordered the formation of a panel to investigate Dhafiri’s death. Saleh, also Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, ordered establishing the “neutral committee” to look into the circumstances of Dhafiri’s death in a building of the criminal security department, the ministry of interior said in a statement. The official statement said the panel will “investigate the incident with competent personnel to determine whether there was any slackness since his detention until his death”.

The panel will present a report about its probe within a week. Any personnel suspected of wrongdoing will be suspended from work until end of the probe, according to the minister, who has affirmed that the suspects, if proven guilty, will be penalized. The ministry has notified the public prosecution about the incident, the ministry said, adding that the body of the deceased was examined by coroners upon the prosecution’s request. The interior ministry affirmed its adherence to transparency and establishing the facts with regards of the case.

National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem tweeted he is closely following developments in the case, urging the interior ministry to be transparent and hold those responsible accountable. MP Abdulkareem Al-Kandari said interior minister must open an urgent investigation by an independent committee about the information given by Dhafiri’s family. MP Thamer Al-Suwait said he is waiting for an official statement from the interior ministry about what happened. MP Oudah Al-Ruwaei said he is in contact with the interior minister.

MP Khalid Al-Otaibi said the case of Dhafiri brought back the incident of Maimouni, which was a “murder”, adding the interior minister must announce the details of the case and reveal those who caused it. Otaibi said Saleh “should remember that the first statement about Maimouni’s murder was contrary to the truth and was covering up for the killers”.

Meanwhile, a number of local NGOs issued a statement expressing their grief and concern over the death of Dhafiri. The statement urged the interior ministry to conduct further independent and non-biased investigations, declare the results to the public and hold whoever is proven guilty legally accountable. “Torture is completely rejected under any circumstances. It is a clear violation of human dignity protected by both Islamic sharia and the Kuwaiti constitution,” the statement stressed, noting that this incident reminds of what happened in the past to citizen Mohammad Al-Maimouni who also died of torture during detention.

The NGOs signing the statement included Kuwait Human Rights Society, Women’s Cultural and Social Society, Kuwait Society for Following up Parliamentary Performance, Kuwait Society for Following up Disabled Concerns, Social Workers Syndicate, Dar Al-Khebra Development Society, Kuwait Lawyers Association, Kuwait Graduates Association, Teaching Staff Members Society, Kuwait Society for Hearing Disability, Kuwait Society for National Fraternity, Kuwait Society for Defending Public Funds, Society of Kuwaiti Missing And Martyrs’ Families, Kuwait Cinema Cub, Kuwait Nursing Society, Kuwait Society for Social Service, Kuwait Society for Beekeepers, Men’s Sociocultural Society, Kuwait Transparency Society and many others.

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