Detained lawyer’s death shakes Mongolia

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The local law enforcement sector is in a state of shock after State Merited Lawyer L.Byambaa hung herself at Detention Center No. 461 five hours prior to her release on February 23.
The Independent Agency Against Corruption (IAAC) reported that the lawyer was held in custody due to her involvement in the Chinese dispute over Salkhit silver deposit, which made Mongolian law enforcement agencies turn against each other in court half a year ago. Apparently, she defended the Chinese side and was arrested for two days under suspicion of accepting and/ or giving bribes.
A spokesperson for the IAAC reported, “We found evidence that legal organizations accepted and/ or gave significant bribes while inspecting the dispute among parties mining at Salkhit silver deposit. Our investigation was going as planned. We confiscated substantial documents while searching the deceased’s home and office. As the confiscated documents were accepted as valid evidence, L.Byambaa was detained for 48 hours. When her detainment time finished and we went to release her, we found that the unfortunate event had already occurred. We can’t disclose further details as the police are working on the case.”

It was reported that L.Byambaa confessed to aiding those involved in the Chinese case during her first interrogation. With addiitonal evidence found in her office, the IAAC arrested L.Byambaa. It was reported that recording of surveillance cameras in her detention room showed that she was “mentally unstable” and “deeply shaken” while in custody.

The police and IAAC underlined that they will make an official report once their investigation is complete. However, preliminary results indicate that guards at the detention center might have been too careless.

“When the incident occurred, the whole security team for the shift were working normally. After the incident, we’ve been checking our internal control. We can’t deny that guards and security officers failed to properly perform their duties. The police is working on the case,” stated D.Damdintseren, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces.

L.Byambaa had left a letter to her family, in which she only wrote, “Take good care of your father.”

L.Byambaa’s death might not be suicide

The IAAC answered some questions about L.Byambaa’s death at its monthly press conference, held on February 25.

Senior detective at the IAAC Ch.Jargalbaatar said, “It was an unfortunate incident. While inspecting the dispute among people who were using Salkhit silver deposit, it was determined that legal bodies exchanged large sums of bribes. L.Byambaa was held in custody for 48 hours under suspicion of accepting, giving and or assisting bribery.”

“We didn’t exceed the specified time of detainment. Before she was released, she had taken her own life. We can’t say whether it was a suicide or there were external influences.

“Our investigation for the dispute will not cease with this recent incident; we will find those who are guilty. Five people are being investigated in connection to the Salkhit deposit case but none of them have been arrested or detained.”

D.Damdintseren: L.Byambaa was alone in her room at the time of her death

Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces D.Damdintseren reported, “L.Byambaa was found dead at 9:40 p.m. on February 23. She had strangled herself with her clothes. She was alone in her detention room.”

“The general staff is carrying out an investigation among its staff. Based on the results, the guilty parties will be held accountable and we will give an update then. At the time of L.Byambaa’s death, guards and security officers were at their assigned posts. We can’t deny that they might have been careless and irresponsible in their duties. Everything will become clear through investigation,” she said.

“Surveillance cameras are installed on every floor and room at Detention Center No. 461. However, only one guard is assigned to each floor, requiring them to check up on 20 to 30 rooms. Some rooms aren’t completely visible through the camera.”

P.Munkhzul: I can’t  accept this

L.Byambaa’s daughter-in-law R.Munkhzul gave an interview on Monday.

She said, “My mother wasn’t a person who would kill herself. Her students, colleagues and friends would all know that she was a modest but also strict and strong woman. I will not simply leave those who took my mother for interrogation and caused her death alone.”

“At 6:30 p.m. on February 22, I called my father and he told me that the IAAC searched our home. Shortly after, my mother’s subordinates informed me that the IAAC arrested my mother. On Friday morning, the detective’s phone wasn’t working and the court hadn’t received any notice. My mother knew that she would be released in 48 hours, which means she had no reason to commit suicide.”

“My mother died at 9:40 p.m. She was apparently fine when she was checked at 3:00 p.m. My younger sibling came out (from the visiting room) crying that the detention center head was drunk. The detention center called the police more than two hours after her death, when it was past midnight. I heard that she was interrogated three hours before her death. I suspect that she was either pressured, threatened, or her food was mixed with something during this time.”

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan