March to mourn Indian’s death

(AP) KUALA LUMPUR – AUTHORITIES tightened security near Malaysia's largest city Wednesday as ethnic Indians planned a funeral march to mourn a man whose family believes he was killed by police while in custody.

The death last week of 22-year-old Ananthan Kugan has focused attention on accusations of police brutality. Activists say more than 80 detainees – mainly from the ethnic Indian minority – have died under questionable circumstances in the past decade.

Kugan died Jan 20 in a police cell in a suburb near Kuala Lumpur, five days after he was arrested for alleged car theft.

Kugan's family found bruises on his body – photographs of which have been circulated on the Internet.

Post-mortem results are expected later this week, and authorities have pledged to prosecute policemen involved in any assault.

Malaysia's attorney general said the case was a suspected murder.

Kugan's death has become an emotionally charged issue for ethnic Indians, though politicians and activists insist the problem is not one of race, but of justice and police accountability.

S. Jayathas, coordinator of the independent group Police Watch, said as many as 1,000 people are expected to accompany Kugan's body on a peaceful 10-mile (16-kilometer) march Wednesday from a mortuary to a crematorium where funeral rites would be held.

'If we don't show our grievances now, then when should we show them? We need to put an end to police brutality,' Jayathas said.

Police have said they will allow the march if the participants do not carry banners or turn it into a rowdy protest. Witnesses reported seeing new police roadblocks on the city's outskirts ahead of the march.

'If people try to divert the procession or start a demonstration, we will initiate action,' deputy national police chief Ismail Omar told the national news agency, Bernama. 'I urge them to remain calm and not be emotional.' The case has been a further blow to the police force, whose image has long been marred by allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

The police force is dominated by the ethnic Malay majority, which forms nearly two-thirds of the national population. Ethnic Indians comprise about 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people and are among the poorest citizens.

Malaysian Indians have long complained of racial discrimination.

Tens of thousands of them staged a rare protest in Kuala Lumpur in November 2007 to demand equal treatment. Police quelled the protest with tear gas and mass arrests. — AP