Indian policemen arrested over custody deaths of father and son caught breaching coronavirus lockdown rules

Residents gather as they carry the coffin of Mr J. Jayaraj and Mr Bennicks Immanuel in Sathankulam, India, on June 26, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

CHENNAI (REUTERS) - India has arrested five policemen over the deaths of a father and son in custody, a senior investigating official said on Thursday (July 2), following outrage that drew comparisons to the death of Mr George Floyd in the United States.

Last week the men, Mr J. Jayaraj, 59, and Mr Bennicks Immanuel, 31, were allegedly subjected to a brutal thrashing that resulted in rectal bleeding and eventual death, according to a letter to government officials written by Mr Jayaraj's wife J. Selvarani.

"All important police personnel involved in the incident have been arrested," Mr K. Shankar, Inspector General of Police, Crime Branch Central Investigation Department, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu told Reuters.

"The investigation continues," Mr Shankar said, adding that a murder case has been filed on the arrested policemen, who include two sub-inspectors, two constables and the police station's inspector.

Hundreds of thousands of tweets were sent out using the hashtag #JusticeforJayarajandBennix, that was among the top Twitter topics trending in India last Friday and among the top 30 trending globally, with many comparing the deaths to that of Mr Floyd.

Mr Bennicks died on Monday after complaining of breathlessness and Mr Jayaraj died on Tuesday, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, who oversees the police in the state, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Police in Sathankulam, a town located 50km south of the port city of Thoothukudi in southern Tamil Nadu state, said the duo were picked up for breaching coronavirus lockdown rules.

Nearly 15 cases of custodial violence and torture were reported daily on average, according to India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The NHRC said in its report that some custodial deaths were reported after considerable delay or not reported at all, adding violence in custody was so rampant "that it has become almost routine".

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