A high-level investigative panel believes that a Malaysian opposition aide committed suicide after anti-graft officers subjected him to harsh interrogation, the government said Thursday.
The mysterious death of Teoh Beng Hock in 2009 triggered a public outcry that pressured Prime Minister Najib Razak to address allegations that law enforcement officers frequently resort to violence and heavy-handed interrogation tactics.
However, the finding of a royal commission set up by the government to probe Teoh's death is unlikely to appease many opposition supporters who suspect that Teoh was killed by officers in the government's Anti-Corruption Commission.
Teoh was found dead in a roof corridor beside the commission's office in Malaysia's central Selangor state in July 2009, several hours after being questioned over alleged misuse of funds by his boss. Teoh, 30, had been the aide of an opposition state legislator who was later cleared of any corruption offense.
Nazri Abdul Aziz, the Cabinet minister responsible for parliamentary affairs, said the royal commission established that Teoh killed himself because of stress sparked by hours of "aggressive" interrogation tactics by three officers who violated protocol and deprived Teoh of sleep.
The panel, which heard testimony from dozens of people earlier this year, believed the officers sought to force a statement by Teoh but had no intention of seeing him dead, Nazri said.
The minister said police will investigate the officers to determine whether they should be prosecuted, adding that they acted in a way that was "unprofessional and unacceptable."
"The government deeply regrets the death of Teoh Beng Hock," Nazri said in a statement. "It was a human tragedy and nothing like this can be allowed to happen again."
Senior opposition lawmaker Lim Kit Siang said the officers should nevertheless be charged with homicide.
The investigative panel also recommended that the anti-corruption agency improve training procedures for officers.
An earlier inquest into Teoh's death left it unresolved, with the coroner saying there was inadequate proof of suicide or murder. The anti-graft agency has denied any direct role in the death.
Pornthip Rojanasunand, a top Thai criminal forensics expert who testified at the inquest, said she believed it was homicide, partly because there were signs that Teoh may have been strangled and assaulted. However, two Malaysian government pathologists insisted Teoh most likely committed suicide by leaping out a window.