Cause of suspected insurgent’s death inconclusive, says Songkhla court

An inquest by the Songkhla Provincial Court found that the cause of death of Abdullah Isomuso, who was found unconscious in his cell while in military custody and died after a month in intensive care, was oxygen deprivation but ruled that it was inconclusive whether he was assaulted.

On 20 July 2019, Abdullah was detained for suspected involvement in unknown insurgent activity and was taken to Ingkhayutthaborihan Military Camp in Pattani. His family was informed the next day that he had been found unconscious in his cell and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of Pattani Hospital.

On 22 July 2019, he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at Songklanagarind Hospital in Hat Yai, where he spent 35 days before dying on 25 August 2019.

On Monday (9 May), an inquest at Songkhla Provincial Court ruled that Abdullah’s cause of death was brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. However, the Court said there was not enough evidence to conclude if his death was due to the actions of any official.

Abdulkohar Awaeputeh, the family’s lawyer, told Patani Notes that a doctor who testified to the Court said that the brain damage Abdullah suffered due to oxygen deprivation could have many causes, such as a pre-existing condition or stress, and he therefore could not definitely say that he had been assaulted, even though a doctor who physically examined Abdullah when he was taken into custody said that he was healthy.

The doctor also said that a scratch found on Abdullah’s leg was not related to the damage to his brain and that it was injury from before he was taken into custody. However, the scratch was not recorded in the notes on Abdullah’s physical examination.

Abdulkohar said that the Court ruled that there needs to be more evidence in order to conclude that Abdullah’s death was due to the actions of an official, and that the testimony of a family member who said Abdullah had previously been assaulted is circumstantial evidence and is not related to the case.

Abdulkohar also said that so little evidence was presented in the case because the lawyers were not able to access a large part of evidence due to the officers exercising their power under special laws, while pushing the burden of proof onto the family. He said that the Isomuso family was not able to access most of the information and did not even know which officers were directly involved in the case, and noted that the military officers should be the ones proving their own innocence.

The lawyer said that the result of the inquest is likely to damage the local community’s trust in the judicial process, and that he does not know how to explain it to the family.

“It’s like a cycle. I have been working here for a long time. In my status as a lawyer, I want to see change. I use trust in the judicial process. I use the state channels. I want to show that there is a way out,” Abdulkohar said. “I understand that it’s difficult because you have to fight the old system, but at this point, I don’t know how to explain it to the family so that they still believe. I think they want to know the cause.”

Meanwhile, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Director of the Cross-Cultural Foundation, said that the justice system has not tried as much as it should to uncover the truth, and that they learned as much from the inquest as from the doctor the day Abdullah was admitted to hospital, which is that he suffered brain damage due to oxygen deprivation, but what the family and the public really want to know is whether someone caused Abdullah’s injury.

“The court’s inquest over the past two years did not give an answer to this. Where else does the family have to complain to, and who is going to take responsibility for the detention by the state which caused Abdullah’s death in a military camp?” she asked.

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