Police in Kandal province questioned a villager Wednesday over the death of a man who human rights workers allege may have been tortured to death in police custody, officials said Thursday.
Samrith Sen, 26, was invited to Koh Thom district police station where theft suspect Khat Thoeun died on March 29. He was then taken to the provincial police headquarters before being released without charge after denying attacking the suspect prior to his arrest, police said.
Deputy District Police Chief Uy Chheang said police believe other villagers attacked Khat Thoeun.
“Police officials never torture people to death. The suspected thief fell over on the ground and was injured when people chased him while he attempted to steal a bicycle,” he said.
Samrith Sen said he had chased Khat Thoeun, but added that neither he nor his fellow villagers attacked the suspect.
Kim Rithy, deputy provincial police chief, said the suspect was neither beaten by a mob nor tortured by police, but died from injuries sustained in a fall.
“The injury developed a few hours later and he was too drunk as well, which caused his body to lack glucose, which is why he died,” Kim Rithy said.
Chan Soveth, investigator with local rights group Adhoc, said he believed that Khat Thoeun may have been tortured to death in custody.
He acknowledged that Khat Thoeun did trip after trying to steal the bicycle, but that he sustained only a minor injury and was not attacked by a mob.
“There was only a minor injury on his face. The victim was still strong, could speak, walk and do everything,” Chan Soveth said, describing the man’s condition when he was taken to the police station.
When Khat Thoeun died, he had blood flowing from his ears, eyes, mouth and nose, his stomach was bruised and his chest was badly burned, Chan Soveth said on Sunday.
“The body really suffered bad torture,” he added on Thursday.