Wales: Police watchdog probes death of two Black Muslim men

19th Mar 2021

Elham Asaad Buaras

The police watchdog is investigating the deaths of two Black Muslim men following contact with police in Wales both deaths prompted protests in Newport to demand answers. Moyied Bashir, 29, who is of Sudanese heritage died on February 17 after officers were called to his home. His death comes just a month after the death of a young man of Somali descent hours after he left police custody in Cardiff on January 9.

Gwent Police confirmed they attended the property on Maesglas Crescent at about 9 am over concerns for Bashir’s welfare after an emergency call. The force said he was suffering a medical episode. He was taken to Grange University Hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 11.40 am.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said in a statement, “We sent investigators to the property and to the post-incident procedures where the officers involved have provided their initial accounts of their interaction with Mr Bashir.”

The IOPC said it was aware that Bashir, who was not arrested, was initially handcuffed and put in leg restraints at the property while awaiting an ambulance. “During their interaction with Mr Bashir his condition was noted to deteriorate. Paramedics arrived and gave medical treatment at the address prior to moving him to a waiting ambulance”.
By the time the ambulance arrived, several police vehicles and nine officers had responded to the incident. More than 100 protesters gathered outside Newport Central Police Station the following day shouting “we want answers” and “we want justice”.

Black Lives Matter Gwent called on the police and the IOPC “to put their money where their mouth is and deal with this deeply distressing death in a swift, transparent and empathetic manner”.Moyied’s brother, Mohamed Bashir told the BBC he had been stabbed three weeks earlier and was recovering from the injury, and had struggled with his mental health. He said his parents had decided to take him back to the hospital and called the police because they were unable to get him out of his room.

“They believed their best option was to call the police and help them escort him to hospital,” Bashir said. Instead, he said, officers arrived and forced their way into his room. He said police handcuffed him and “tied him up by his leg. His stab wound is on his main artery, so while he is tied up, handcuffed, he started getting weaker,” he said.

Mohamud’s investigation

Bashir’s death comes a month after the death of Mohamud Mohammed Hassan hours after he left custody in Cardiff.

Hassan was arrested at his home on January 8, released without charge the next day and died that night. One officer has been served with a misconduct notice relating to information not being passed to the custody staff in charge of Hassan’s welfare.

The IOPC said, “The serving of a misconduct notice does not necessarily mean an officer has committed any wrongdoing. It is to notify an officer that their conduct is being investigated. The most serious sanction that can be imposed if an officer is subsequently found to have breached professional standards at misconduct level is a written warning.” However, Hilary Brown, a lawyer who is representing Hassan’s family, has called for the officer’s immediate suspension. The IOPC said it was sharing the latest update given “significant” public interest.

The investigation has also found no evidence that a taser had been used on Hassan, who had died hours after leaving police custody. The IOPC is looking into South Wales Police contact with the 24-year-old from Cardiff.

His family claimed the Hassan was assaulted in custody and like Bashir’s case protests were held following his death in January. Director for Wales, Catrin Evans, said, “Having listened to the emergency call from the evening of Friday 8 January we know that officers attended the flat in Newport Road in response to a caller who said that five men had entered the address and were fighting with the five occupants within the property.

“The officers’ body-worn video footage shows that on arrival a number of occupants had injuries, and officers sought explanations about where the injuries came from. From a search of the flat, reviewing footage, officer accounts, pathology information, and an audit trail of Taser use within the South Wales Police force area we requested, there is no evidence to suggest that Mr Hassan was tasered at any stage either prior to or during his detention.”
She confirmed the IOPC was still gathering accounts from 46 police officers and staff who were on shift or working in the area at the time.

“There is much more work to do to complete our investigation and our investigators continue to gather and review evidence to help us establish the events leading up to Mr Hassan’s death. As our review of this material nears completion, we intend to move on to scrutinise street and private footage has been secured, which we hope will assist in identifying Mr Hassan’s movements following his release from custody and may open up further lines of enquiry.

An investigation like this does take time and we would ask people to be patient while the investigation runs its course”.

30,000 people have signed a petition calling on the IOPC to publicly release documents, CCTV and police body-camera footage the IOPC has refused to do so citing the possibility it may be needed for potential criminal, misconduct, or inquest proceedings.

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