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Death of CBI witness in Unnao rape-custody death case sparks controversy

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Uncle of Unnao rape victim, whose father died in custody, wants postmortem of the body. The witness’ wife says he died of natural causes. 

New Delhi: The death of a key CBI witness in the Unnao rape custodial death case has kicked up a storm.

The uncle of the Unnao rape victim, whose father died in police custody in April, has sought a postmortem of the body of witness Yunus Khan.

Khan, 30, who owned a ration shop in Makhi, Unnao, died on 18 August.

The victim’s uncle claims that Khan’s brother also wrote to police seeking a postmortem and a detailed probe into his death. However, Khan’s wife says he died a natural death.

According to the uncle, Khan was an eyewitness to the assault on the rape victim’s father by BJP MLA Kuldeep Sengar’s men while in custody. The CBI, which investigated the custody death case, filed a chargesheet in July.

Also read: Angry about Kathua and Unnao? Here are 9 things you can do right away

Sengar is lodged in Sitapur jail in connection with the alleged murder.

Although some family members and local authorities claim that Khan died a natural death, questions are being raised about the sudden manner in which he died.

“I had known Yunus since he was a child. He didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke. What was this disease that caused his sudden death?” the victim’s uncle told ThePrint.

Conspiracy or natural death?

Khan’s family lived barely 100 m from the house of the rape victim’s uncle. Despite Khan being buried nearby, he claims he was not aware of his death until 19 August.

“I have written to the local police and the CBI to conduct a postmortem of the deceased. There has been immense pressure from Sengar’s henchmen on all ends – on Yunus’s family, the police and us,” the rape victim’s uncle said.

In a separate letter to the CBI asking for a postmortem into Khan’s sudden death, the victim’s uncle says he believes Khan was “murdered and buried without even conducting a postmortem”.

But, in a letter by Khan’s wife Sabeena Khatoon to the Unnao district collector, she claims there is no such conspiracy. In the letter, which has been accessed by ThePrint, Khatoon says her husband died of natural causes.

After visiting Hallet Hospital, now called Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital, Khan was diagnosed with a liver problem. The doctor attending to him apparently told his family that Khan would not survive, the letter dated 21 August said.

Also read: How far will man fall? Rape of children is on the rise, not just in Kathua and Unnao

Khatoon alleges that on 23 August, the rape victim’s uncle tired to pressure the family into seeking an autopsy in lieu of Rs 8 lakh. However, he rejects this allegation. “I wasn’t even in Makhi on the evening of 23 August. I was on my way to Delhi,” he said.

“In case they don’t exhume the body in the next few days, I will petition the court. If it was a natural death, then what is the problem (in getting an autopsy done)?” he asked.

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