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Police brutality claims embroil Fiji

Friday 27 November 2015 | Published in Regional

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SUVA – Police in Fiji have identified suspects in the alleged beating and torture of Lautoka businessman Rajneel Singh by a group of police officers.

Spokewoman Ana Naisoro said while there was a breakthrough in the case, details surrounding the identification of the men could not be made public as yet.

“As the acting police commissioner has stated ,while the identities of the alleged persons are known, at this stage we cannot release more details as investigations are ongoing,” Naisoro said.

Internet cafe owner Singh alleged he was transported by men he believed to be police officers from the Ba Police Station last Friday afternoon and severely beaten in a pine forest between Nadi and Sigatoka.

He claimed he had been asked to present himself at the police station to make a statement regarding the discovery of sensitive documents outlining a plot to overthrow the government and assassinate senior government ministers.

Reports from Fiji say an email has surfaced about an alleged plot to kill all government MPs. FBC News says it has sighted the email which was found on a computer in the Lautoka internet cafe owned by Singh.

Singh claimed police officers started behaving strangely after he sent copies of the emails plotting to undermine the Government to the Acting Police Commissioner and the Attorney-General’s office.

The shop owner, is now reportedly under military guard in hospital after he was allegedly severely beaten by police officers.

Singh – who claims he was alerting police about the possibility of an assassination plot – alleged he was beaten, tortured with a “hot rod” and left for dead in a forest and was rescued by a truck driver early last Saturday.

Singh claimed that the police officers were trying to persuade him to change his original statement, which he refused.

Singh said it was lucky that he had the acting police commissioner’s number in his cellphone otherwise he might have been left for dead.

He said he called Acting Police Commissioner Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho personally to report that he had been assaulted by the police.

Qiliho reportedly requested military assistance to transport Singh from Sigatoka to the Lautoka Hospital where he was placed under military guard.

Singh confirmed the military picked him up from where he had been beaten and brought him to hospital.

“Now they are guarding me to protect me,” he said.

Qiliho has directed police officers involved in the alleged beating be sent home.

Qiliho said he had ordered the team to make a thorough investigation into the allegation.

“This is a new twist in the case as the alleged victim had claimed Police officers had beaten him up,” he said.

Qiliho said the force did not condone brutality against citizens and it should not happen at any cost.

“I have told them that I will not condone any such actions and addressing brutality is a holistic approach. There’s no excuse,” Brig-Gen Qiliho said.

“As the commissioner now, it is my duty to see it does not happen. We can’t afford to have that happening.”

He said if the need arose for police officers to be sent home for brutality-related offences, it would be done.

“If I need to take that stand, I will take that stand.

“I am known as a straight shooter and I get things right and if it means taking that step, then it has to be taken.”

“I will personally deal with them,” he said.

The chairman of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Mohamed Ajmeer, said Government’s agreement to sign the UN Convention against Torture should be respected by the security forces, especially the Fiji Police Force.

Justice Ajmeer said this latest act of brutality by the police was “abhorrent”.

He said the case showed that police were not committed to the UN convention.

He said he addressed police officers in Lautoka a week ago, explaining to them about the need to abstain from torture and brutality.

“The officers agreed to abstain from torture and brutality,” Justice Ajmeer said.

“Yet within a week, we see a case of such brutality.”

- PNC