Pakistan has launched a judicial inquiry into the death of Indian national Chamel Singh, who was serving a five-year jail term for spying, following allegations that he died after being beaten by prison staff.
Refuting reports that Singh was beaten up, Ishtiaq Ahmed, the Additional Superintendent of Kot Lakhpat Jail said the Indian prisoner had developed pains in his chest while having breakfast on January 15 and was taken to a state-run hospital.
“We shifted him to Jinnah Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead. The apparent cause of death was cardiac arrest, according to the doctors,” Ahmed said.
Following allegations and media reports that Singh was assaulted by prison staff, authorities launched a judicial inquiry into his death.
Judicial magistrate Afzal Abbas recorded the statements of 14 Indian prisoners who were in the same barrack as Singh.
“All the 14 Indian prisoners have recorded their statements. There is no question of torture either by the staff or other prisoners,” Mr. Ahmed said.
Other officials said the judicial magistrate was awaiting autopsy findings to finalise his report on Singh’s death.
Syed Mudassar Hussain, an Associate Professor in the Forensic Department of Jinnah Hospital, said that the autopsy of Singh’s body was yet to be done.
“The cause of death can be ascertained only after the autopsy, which will bw carried out shortly,” Mr. Hussain said.
Singh was serving a five-year prison term for alleged involvement in espionage. The records of Kot Lakhpat Jail state that Singh was arrested near the border at Sialkot in 2010. He was brought to Kot Lakhpat Jail in June last year.
“He was to complete his term in 2015. The body will be handed over to Indian authorities once legal requirements are met,” Additional Superintendent Ahmed said.
A total of 33 Indian prisoners are currently being held in Kot Lakhpat Jail and officials said they were all safe.
Singh hailed from Jammu and Kashmir and is believed to have been in his sixties, Indian officials said.
Initial media reports had claimed that Singh was aged about 40.
Media reports had quoted a Pakistani lawyer named Tehseen Khan, who was recently released from Kot Lakhpat Jail, as saying that he had seen prison staff assaulting Singh for using water from a tap to wash clothes on January 15.
Mr. Khan claimed Singh had died at Jinnah Hospital on January 17. He further alleged that Singh was “mercilessly beaten” by jail staff, who made “racial remarks against Indians and minorities”.
He claimed other Indians in Kot Lakhpat jail, including death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh, faced a “grave threat“. Pakistani officials said they had no information about Khan or his claims.
Members of the legal fraternity too said they did not know of any lawyer named Tehseen Khan who had been recently released from Kot Lakhpat Jail.