Saw navy men strangling Uthayakumar -daughter

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 07 March 2001, 17:34 GMT]
"I saw the soldiers beating up my father with a club and he cried out in pain. My brother and I cried when we saw this. Our father told us that he was being taken to the Tharapuram Navy camp and asked us to come there in the morning. The soldiers then took him away. We saw our father being walked down the street later around 10.30 p.m." said Anusiya Uthayakumar, 16, the daughter of the man who was allegedly beaten and strangled to death by Navy personnel who arrested him on the night of February 28, in her evidence in the Mannar court Wednesday. Answering a question by Inspector of Police (Mannar crime branch) S.Abeyawardena during her evidence, Anusiya said that she also saw the naval ratings strangling her father while they were beating him up.

Acting magistrate for Mannar Mr. Emmanuel Caius Feldano heard the case (no. A R 54/01).

In their evidence before the magistrate on Monday, V.E Raveendra S.Harischandra, 23, the sub lieutenant from the Tharapuram Navy camp in Mannar and three ratings who went with him to arrest Uthayakumar on the night of 28 February claimed that they did not assault him at all during the arrest or questioning.

The sub lieutenant said in his evidence that Uthayakumar was arrested on information provided by three informants. He claimed that there was no electricity in the Tharapuram Navy camp when they took Uthayakumar there for questioning and that he attempted to escape when the lamp in the room where they were interrogating him went out. However, according to the sub lieutenant, he and naval rating K.A.S Prasad Kumara, 22, of Matale had overpowered Uthayakumar and brought him back to the room where he had suddenly collapsed, frothing from a corner of his mouth.

"Suspecting that Uthayakumar was suffering from a disease, we took him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead" the Navy officer said, adding that they had not assaulted Uthayakumar even when his alleged escape bid was foiled. The sub lieutenant's statement was corroborated by the three naval ratings who gave evidence on Monday.

However, the District Medical Officer for Mannar, Dr.G.Somasekeram, who examined the body of Uthayakumar states in his medical legal report submitted to the courts on 2 March "I am of the opinion the death would have occurred due to Hypoxia following strangulation of the neck". He notes that there is muscle and bone damage in Uthayakumar's neck and bleeding into muscle. His report says that there was bleeding into the mouth and the nostrils.

Continuing her evidence in court, Uthayakumar's daughter Anusiya said "We are from Atchuvely in Jaffna. We were displaced due to army operations in 1997. We have been living in Mannar since then. I have three sisters and three brothers. My father had to chop firewood to eke out a living. My mother went to the Vanni on 16 February to visit one of my sisters who lives there with relatives. As my mother was not at home, my father go out to chop firewood on the evening of 28 February. Eight soldiers came home around 9 p.m. that night. They questioned and chased away a neighbour who had come to listen to the radio news. Then they told my father that they had come to arrest him because they had information that he was involved in smuggling."

She said that a naval rating had woken them up around 3.30 a.m. and told them Uthayakumar would return home in the morning and that they should prepare to welcome him. The rating had given the children a chit in Sinhala which Anusiya said she could not understand as she does not know Sinhala.

The navy personnel said in their evidence on Monday that they had given the Uthayakumar's family a receipt of arrest when they took him into custody.


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