India: Court sentences Dr Binayak Sen, tribal clinic doctor, to life for helping Maoists

Binayak Sen held guilty, supporters cry foul

December 24, 2010 – Dr Sen to appeal against the Raipur court verdict which holds him guilty of sedition.

By Sujeet Kumar
RAIPUR | Fri Dec 24, 2010
(Reuters) – A court sentenced a doctor accused of links with Maoist rebels to life in prison on Friday, a high-profile case involving appeals by Nobel laureates for the world’s biggest democracy to uphold human rights.

Binayak Sen, 60, was arrested in 2007 in Raipur, capital of Chhattisgarh on accusations he passed on notes from an imprisoned Maoist leader he was treating. Sen denies any wrongdoing.

Chhattisgarh is one of the centres of a Maoist insurgency that stretches across a swathe of eastern and central India.

“Binayak Sen along with (two others) have been convicted for sedition and conspiracy against the state, among other charges,” public prosecutor T.C. Pandya told reporters.

All three accused were sentenced to life in prison. They can appeal the verdict in a higher court. Sen had been granted bail by the Supreme Court last year.

Sen won international fame for running health clinics for villagers in tribal regions. He has also been critical of government-backed tribal militia that were formed to battle the Maoist insurgents.

In 2008, the Global Health Council, an association of health organisations and workers, made Sen the winner of the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights.

After that, 22 Nobel prize-winning scientists appealed to the Indian government to release him and let him travel to the United States to collect the award.

The Nobel laureates said the laws under which Sen had been jailed fell short of international human rights standards.

“I fully disagree with the court decision,” Illina Sen, the doctor’s wife, told reporters. “There was no evidence against him, we will go to the high court.”

Maoist rebels say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless. They regularly kill policemen and attack government establishments.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the four-decade-old Maoist rebellion as the biggest threat to internal security. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.

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Campaign for Justice and Peace-TN’s Statement on conviction of Dr Binayak Sen  

Today’s decision of the Raipur Additional District and Sessions court to convict Dr Binayak Sen, a physician and human rights activist for treason and awarding him a sentence of life imprisonment is retrograde and a blot on the Indian democracy . The decision is reflective of bias as a result of political pressure almost matching lack of independence of the judiciary. The evidence upon which this decision is based is flimsy at best and incredible at worst. Recent reports in the national dailies of the trial process have exposed the farce being played out in the sessions court. The timing of the decision on the eve of festival holidays which restricts Dr Sen’s possibility of getting a bail in next two weeks smacks further of the state’s influence. The judiciary has validated the state’s repression by passing such a decision.

Essentially Dr Sen has been convicted on the basis of a single document of no veracity and on the word of a single police officer. Despite the glaring discrepancies and loop holes in the prosecution’s case, it is indeed incredulous that the session’s judge found Dr Sen guilty.  We regard this judgement as a blow to free speech and civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. We hope that the higher courts will go by the weight of the actual evidence while judging this case in their turn.

The severity of the sentence awarded to Dr Sen shows the character of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and of all anti-terror laws generally. These are clearly designed to circumscribe the rights of citizens under the guise of national security. It is instructive to recall that it took 20 years for the trial court to bring the killers of prominent trade union leader Shankar Guha Niyogi to justice, which too was partial because the real conspirators (industrialists) of the murder were let off. In Dr Sen’s case it has taken just 3 years for the trial court to convict him.

Today’s verdict of the lower court is a warning to all voices of dissent and conscience in this country.

Campaign for Justice and Peace-Tamil Nadu

C/o H-31/39 Ashatalakshmi Gardens, Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090

Contact no:9444390240

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