Travesty of justice for human rights defender 12 January 2011

Dr Binayak Sen, human rights defender, starts his life sentence for sedition, India.
Dr Binayak Sen, human rights defender, starts his life sentence for sedition, India.
© Anon, use by special arrangement

Indian human rights defender Dr Binayak Sen has been sentenced to life in prison under charges that Amnesty International has called ‘politically motivated’.

Binayak Sen – a medical doctor who has won international awards for his work with adivasi (tribal) people in central India – has strongly denied the charges.

Dr Sen was working with communities in the front line of India’s bloody insurgency, who are caught between the Maoist fighters and the heavily armed state paramilitaries. Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting and tens of thousands of adivasis have been displaced from their homes.

Dr Sen was charged with sedition and treason for allegedly carrying letters from an imprisoned Maoist leader to a businessman.

Prashant Bhushan – a Supreme Court lawyer who was closely involved in the case of Vedanta Resources’ Niyamgiri mine – said, ‘The Supreme Court has held that the charge of sedition can be upheld only if the prosecution proves that the accused attempted to incite violence or public disorder. It is clear that this case doesn’t meet that standard.’

In November the writer Arundhati Roy was also charged with sedition, in a case that has yet to come to court. Ms Roy’s charges concern comments made regarding the Kashmir situation, although her stance on the Maoist insurgency has also generated heated debate.

Dr Sen has been granted the right to appeal to the Chhattisgarh High Court.


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