Police ‘respect’ ODPP’s decision

POLICE Commissioner Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho says he respects a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions to discontinue court proceedings against four men charged with murder.

At the same time, he has ordered investigations to be carried out into allegations made by four men accused of murder which resulted in charges being withdrawn against them at the High Court in Lautoka yesterday.

The four — Jitendra Kumar, 34, Subhash Chand, 52, Parma Nand, 36 and Deo Chand, 55 — had been accused of murdering Jagdish Chand in 2010. The men were set free after state lawyers filed a nolle prosequi or discontinuance.

Director of Public Prosecutions Christopher Pryde said it was clear that each of the accused had suffered unexplained injuries at the time of their caution interview while in police custody.

“It also appears that duress was placed on the interviewing officers by their superiors to deny all allegations of assault,” he said.

“This is a very serious allegation which needs to be fully investigated.

“There being no admissible evidence against the accused other than the confession statements, I am of the view that in these circumstances it would not be proper to continue with the prosecution. I am therefore ending the prosecution and sending the file back to the Police Commissioner to investigate the allegations of assault in custody.”

He added, however, that the filing of the nolle prosequi did not amount to an acquittal of the four accused.

“If further evidence is received from the police, it will be considered and the charge against each person may be filed afresh. Until that time, the matter is at an end.”

Brig-Gen Qiliho said he held discussions with Mr Pryde last week regarding the decision to file a nolle prosequi.

“I respect the decision made and have given my assurances that a thorough investigation will be carried out accordingly with regards to the allegations made,” he said.

“We will be making further comments once the investigations are completed.”

For the four accused, a six-year wait for justice finally came to an end yesterday — for the time being. The four from Drumasi, Tavua, celebrated with defence lawyer Iqbal Khan after the decision by state lawyers to file a discontinuance effectively ending their prosecution.

One of the accused, Mr Chand said they could finally be at peace.

“I thought about this every single day for the past six years. It ruined me and affected my family so much because we kept thinking the worst could happen to us,” he said.

Another accused, Mr Nand said his life had been put on hold since 2010.

“I was supposed to get married before this happened, but I stopped everything because I knew it would affect my marriage if I went ahead with the wedding,” he said.

Deo Chand said a huge burden was lifted off their shoulders after the DPP made his decision.

Defence lawyer Iqbal Khan said the discontinuation of the case was a result of his submission, which exposed some of the flaws within the investigation.

“A few weeks ago, I made a submission to the DPP to reconsider the case against my clients in view of the damning evidence against police,” he said.

“So DPP considered it and they came to the court and filed a nolle prosequi in the High Court. They were on bail but they have gone through hell because this case was always in their thoughts.”

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