News | Sunday, 28 February 2010

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Libyan taken to Mt Carmel for allegations on prisoner’s suicide

A Libyan prisoner who claimed prison warders failed to check on British inmate Berry Charles Lee, 45, who committed suicide on Tuesday when he failed to collect his medicine and food, has been transferred to Mount Carmel mental hospital.
MaltaToday has learnt that Dabid Abdul Baset, 41, was transferred to Mount Carmel on referral by the clinic at the Corradino Correctional Facility, after making “loud statements” with prisoners and wardens that Lee had not been properly checked upon.
Sources said he was punished for ignoring warders’ order from raising his voice over Lee’s death, and had his telephone calls and other privileges removed. Until yesterday, Baset had been sectioned inside Mt Carmel’s forensic section.
According to Baset’s claims, he last saw Lee alive at 11am. At 11.30am when prisoners were called to queue up and collect their medicines, Lee was nowhere to be seen.
MaltaToday has learnt that Lee was on anti-depressants and was supposed to have been under constant observation by the prison warders, as per a standing order.
According to Baset’s claims, after Lee failed to present himself to collect his medication from the nurses, no warder checked on his cell. Baset also said he later saw that his meal was discarded into the trash bin (as is commonly done with uncollected meals) but the warders did not check on him.
Lee, from Nottinghamshire, UK, later hanged himself in his cell using a belt and a piece of a broomstick wedged into the ventilator aperture – despite international prison safety standards which prohibit from maximum security sections such clothing accessories as belts, necklaces, shoelaces, and any other items which can be used in suicide attempts.
His lifeless body was discovered in his cell by other prisoners, after he failed to respond to the 2.30pm fall-in as expected.
Lee was serving a sentence for aggravated theft, having already served a separate two-week sentence for resisting arrest. He had recently been granted bail, but was returned to Division Six on the same day as his release, after it transpired that he had submitted a false address.
A spokesman for the Justice Ministry confirmed yesterday that Lee had spent more than six months inside Division Six, but told this newspaper that he himself had refused an offer to be transferred to another section of the prison.
Asked to comment on Lee’s psychological state and why this inmate was not moved to an area where he could be monitored better, a ministry spokesperson said that since the case is now subject to a magisterial inquiry, the ministry had no comment to make.
The ministry also stated that Division 6 – condemned by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture in 2005, but retained by the prison administration as a maximum security cell block – was refurbished over the last year. “The 16 cells thereat are well ventilated and painted light green similarly to the rest of the establishment. Each cell is equipped with a WC and wash hand basin, and 12 volt outlet for TV sets or other such apparatus. All sanitary facilities are brand new and gym equipment has been recently installed to be used by one and all. Division 6 is also kept as clean as other divisions at the Corradino Correctional Facility.”
Baset is serving a three-year sentence after he was caught stealing from a car in Msida and a 15-month jail term after making use of counterfeit bank notes and relapsing.

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