The picture of a naked and chained suspect in a robbery case, David Gaiqui, at the Curepipe Criminal Investigation Division (CID) office has sparked controversy. The picture was allegedly taken by his lawyer, Anoup Goodary, on Friday 26 January and shared on social media.
Goodary had to step down as Gaiqui’s lawyer in the robbery case to appear as witness in the case of alleged police brutality. Lawyer Neelkanth Dulloo now defends Gaiqui in the robbery case. Dulloo, Sanjeev Teeluckdharry, Ravi Rutnah, Deepak Rutnah, amongst other lawyers, have taken over the case of alleged police brutality. The police released a communiqué on Sunday announcing the setting up of an inquest to “shed light on this case”. After consultation with his lawyers, Gaiqui eventually filed a plaint for police brutality late on Sunday night. On Saturday however, the latter had filed a first plaint against Goodary for breach of the ICT Act. Teeluckdharry branded this unforeseen development a “set up” by the police. Roselle Gaiqui, wife of the suspected victim of police brutality, claimed her spouse was illiterate and that “he had nothing against his lawyer [Goodary].”
Reactions to this case have been pouring in since the weekend. The Attorney General, Maneesh Gobin expressed his “shock” after seeing this picture and assured an inquest would be launched. “We need to know why this man was naked and chained. I don’t think it was the right thing to do. I will leave the police enquiry to follow its course for the sake of transparency,” stated Gobin. The acting Prime Minister (PM), Ivan Collendavelloo, declared he was “moved” by the photograph and had asked the commissioner of police to immediately launch an enquiry. Marie–Lourdes Lam Hung, vice president of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and head of the Police Complaints Division, averred that a separate inquest would be run by the NHRC.
Vinod Appadoo, the commissioner of prisons, on the other hand, spoke in favour of strip searches. “In many cases, police officers got surprises when they searched detainees. Besides drugs, blades have also been found. [...] Handcuffing and chaining apply to violent suspects or those who are likely to run away,” stated Appadoo. Jaylall Boojawon, president of the Police Officers’ Solidarity Union, went even further by declaring that, “there has been no police brutality in this case. Otherwise, the suspect would have made a statement at his appearance before the Bail and Remand Court.” During a debate on Monday on the controversy on Radio One, Boojawon caused Lindley Couronne, president of the human rights NGO Dis-moi, to walk out when he asserted that “there is no police brutality in the police force” based on the number of cases sent by the NHRC to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Couronne had previously declared on air, “We either have mythomaniac citizens or a system, a pattern of police brutality and of sadism within the police force.”
Shakeel and Yousuf Mohamed, Goodary’s lawyers in the breach of the ICT Act case, criticised, during a press conference on Monday, both Appadoo and Boojawon’s statements. For Shakeel Mohamed, police standing orders do not mention stripping down and chaining up suspects. Moreover, Yousuf Mohamed asserts that Goodary has not breached the ethics code of lawyers by taking a picture of the naked suspect. “Goodary published this picture online with the consent of Mr Gaiqui and his family. The police need to find out that picture comes from,” said Yousuf Mohamed. The latter added, “A lawyer needs to protect without fear and by all appropriate and legitimate means the best interests of their client. That, with no regard for their own interests. A lawyer has the right to record the statement of their client and to take pictures.”
Pressure has been mounting on the Commissioner of Police, Mario Nobin, too. In a letter, Teeluckdharry urged the police not to object Gaiqui’s release, to suspend the officers involved in the case and to transfer the case to a team other than the Curepipe CID. Ravi Rutnah gave an ultimatum to Nobin to suspend the police officers involved by Monday afternoon or to risk facing “personal actions” from the former. Nobin, in a statement on Tuesday, declined suspending the police officers, saying, “the policeman is a citizen like any of us. For us to take actions, there needs an enquiry first and the officers found guilty or not.” The acting Prime Minister, Ivan Collendavelloo, supported the commissioner of police while publicly speaking against his fellow Muvman Liberater MP Ravi Rutnah on Wednesday. “Nobin is properly handling the situation,” declared Collendavelloo. The Mouvement Militant Mauricien’s (MMM’s) Veda Balamoody contested the impartiality of the police in inquiring this alleged case of police brutality. Balamoody also expressed reserves over the separate inquest by the NHRC, branding it a “toothless bulldog”. Conversely, the left-wing party LALIT has called for the immediate arrest of all police officers present at the Curepipe CID at the time of the strip search.
On Tuesday, Gaiqui was transferred to Brown Sequard psychiatric hospital in Beau Bassin. According to Deepak Rutnah, Gaiqui personally asked for the move, invoking “stress” and incapacity to sleep.
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