Friday, February 29, 2008

Doctor and human rights defender detained

Binayak Sen, a medical doctor and human rights defender, remains in prison in Raipur, Chhattisgarh state, following his arrest on 14 May 2007. Amnesty International believes that the charges against him may be politically motivated and designed to silence human rights defenders who oppose the Salwa Judum, a so-called people-sponsored campaign against the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

In the course of his human rights work, Binayak Sen visited Narayan Sanyal, a CPI (Maoist) leader, in Raipur prison many times. The police claim that at these meetings, Naranyal Sanyal gave letters to Binayak Sen to pass on to Piyush Guha, also an alleged member of CPI (Maoist) who has subsequently been detained.

Amnesty International believes that Binayak Sen’s arrest may also be linked to his enquiries into reports of the use of extrajudicial executions in Chhattisgarh state by state police as part of the Salwa Judum campaign.

The Salwa Judum was allegedly initiated by the people of Chhattisgarh in 2005 to oppose Maoist violence in the state.

However, human rights defenders have gathered evidence showing that the Salwa Judum is actually a state-sponsored attempt to clear Maoists out of Chhattisgarh, ultimately giving companies better access to the state’s abundant natural resources.

Binayak Sen’s arrest may also be an attempt to prove that meeting or having ideological sympathies with the armed Maoist left is in itself a crime. A legal conviction in this regard would incriminate thousands of human rights defenders across India and severely limit their freedom of association.

Binayak Sen applied for bail but this was turned down at the Chhattisgarh High Court on the grounds that the police were investigating his alleged relationship with an armed leftist group. But those working in his legal defence state that the evidence being used to incriminate him is flimsy and unsubstantiated.

Amnesty International has learned that Binayak Sen’s lawyers have not received vital information relating to evidence apparently found at his property. A hearing took place on 28 December. There are recent reports that his health is deteriorating

Please write, calling on the authorities to ensure that Binayak Sen receives a fair and prompt trial, that his lawyers receive all materials necessary to his defence, and that he receives all necessary medical care.

Send appeals to

Shivraj Patil,
Minister of Home Affairs,
Ministry of Home Affairs,
North Block, Central Secretariat,
New Delhi - 110 001
Fax : +91-11-23093750, 23092763

Salutation: Dear Minister