Police accused of torturing suspectsFive police officers were questioned by prosecutors in southern Seoul yesterday on charges of torturing suspects and concealing evidence of it.
The investigation was carried out after the National Human Rights Commission of Korea said last week they received several petitions from people in May that stated they were tortured by Yangcheon police after being arrested.
After receiving the petition, the commission did a follow-up investigation that involved 32 people, including the petitioners and other men who were arrested, investigated by the Yangcheon police and sent to detention houses from last August to March this year. Most of the men were arrested for theft or drug-related crimes.
A man identified by his surname Lee, 45, said he was gagged with an unidentified object and cellophane tape and beaten while being forced to admit a crime in March. Other men testified that their “faces were stepped on by the police after being gagged with toilet paper or towels” and their “arms were yanked up behind their backs while they were handcuffed.”
Some said that they confessed to crimes to stop the pain when police wound up their faces with cellophane tape, stamped on their backs or forced their faces into cushions out of sight of the closed circuit television cameras.
The commission also said they were in possession of pictures of broken teeth and medical records to prove the men’s injuries.
During the commission’s investigation of the case, a CCTV camera in the room where the police allegedly tortured suspects was found to be facing the ceiling, and that the security system at the Yangcheon police station was missing 25 days’ worth of recordings. According to police and the commission, the records from all security cameras at the police station from March 9 to April 2 are missing.
The Yangcheon police said they informed the firm that installed the security cameras on April 2 of a malfunction in the video recorder machine, a day before the start of the prosecutors’ investigation into the torture case. The firm said the missing footage was from an “unknown malfunction of the machine.”
The police under investigation are also being accused of having prevented family members from visiting a man, Lim, 33, who was arrested by Yangcheon police in March.
“While Lim was in the custody of the Yangcheon police, his family tried to visit him but were turned away by police, who said ‘The prosecutors will not allow you to see him,’?” Lim’s lawyer, Kim Jeong-beom said. “I met with Lim six days after his arrest. His eyes were bloodshot and his face was swollen.” Kim said Lim’s family was allowed a visit on April 1, one day after Kim “insisted their wish be respected.” The prosecutors denied having turned down visitation requests.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency also did a separate inspection of the case, interrogating the five police officers for four days after the commission’s initial report last week.
By Kim Jeen-kyung, Christine Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]