Dead suspects' kin demand inquiry

MALAYSIA - Family members of five suspected gang members killed by Malaysian police are alleging excessive force, asking why the men were shot dead in a pre-dawn raid instead of being arrested and charged in court.

The families dispute police claims that the men were gang members responsible for 10 gun murders in the country. They have lodged police reports against the police officers in the Monday raid and demand a court inquiry.

"My son has no criminal record, so how can he be affiliated to the gang?" Mr V.R. Murugasen, 52, the father of one of the men, was quoted as saying by The Star on Monday evening. "The five of them grew up together and had just moved into the apartment three days ago."

On Monday, police said the men, all ethnic Indians, were members of the notorious Gang 04, one of the larger crime groups in the country. They said they were hired killers involved in the recent spate of shootings which have shocked the nation.

Police said that when they stormed the rented apartment in Sungai Nibong, Penang, at 4.30am, the suspects shot first.

But the families said the dead men - aged 23 to 27 - had multiple gunshot wounds, mostly to the head, chest, neck and face, suggesting that they were shot at close range.

"The police could have shot them in their legs if they needed to shoot and then arrest them. There is no reason for the police to shoot to kill which is obvious from the gunshot wounds," Mr R.S.N. Rayer, a state assemblyman and lawyer for the families, said in a press statement yesterday.

Deputy minister P. Waythamoorthy also questioned police claims that a shoot-out had occurred. He said he saw photos which suggested the men were shot at point-blank range.

"I don't think anyone with the right frame of mind will believe there was an actual shoot-out between the police and the suspects," he said in a statement yesterday.

Mr Waythamoorthy, appointed by Prime Minister Najib Razak to handle ethnic Indian affairs, said the Indian community was very concerned that it is the target of a "shoot-to-kill" policy.

Hindraf, an Indian human rights movement which he heads, has over the years complained that Indian Malaysians made up the majority of victims in police shoot-outs and custodial deaths.

Penang police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi reiterated that the suspects shot first. "We have acted according to standard operating procedures and the police fired only a few shots," he told local reporters on Tuesday.

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