Binayak Sen gets life, angry activists vow appeal (Roundup)

December 24th, 2010 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Sujeet Kumar
Raipur/New Delhi, Dec 24 (IANS) Rights activist Binayak Sen, whose incarceration a group of 22 Nobel laureates had condemned, was Friday sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chhattisgarh court for sedition and his links with Maoists. His shaken family termed it a sad day for Indian democracy while fellow activists reacted with disbelief and vowed to appeal.As Sen, 59, clad in a kurta-pyjama and looking his frail self, watched on, Raipur district and sessions court judge B.P. Varma convicted him for sedition and criminal conspiracy under 124 A and 120 B respectively of the Indian Penal Code.

The court also jailed him for between one and five years under various sections of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and a section of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The sentences will run concurrently.

The court, however, acquitted Sen of the charge of waging war against the state that was levelled under section 121 (A) of the IPC. Sen was also acquitted of charges under sections 20 and 21 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The court also convicted two others - Narayan Sanyal, in his 80s, and 30-year-old Kolkata-based businessman Piyush Guha - terming them Maoists and handed them life terms. They are already in judicial custody and were present in court.

A doctor by profession, Sen was out on bail but was taken into custody soon after the judgement. He was arrested in 2007 from Bilaspur for alleged links with Sanyal but released in May 2009 at the behest of the Supreme Court.

In 2008, when he was in jail, the US-based Global Health Council awarded him for his work in global health and human rights. The same year, a group of 22 Nobel laureates condemned Sen’s incarceration.

Sen’s wife Illina said at the court building: “I totally disagree with the court’s decision. There is no evidence against him. We will go to the high court.”

“One who has worked for the poor of the country for 30 years, if that person is found guilty of sedition and conspiracy - when gangsters and scamsters are walking free - I think it’s a scandalous situation.

“I am sad. I am sad because my daughters, my husband and I will have to fight another long legal battle. I don’t how long will this be. I am even more sad for the state of Indian democracy,” Illina said.

The family was visibly shaken.

“I lost my voice, please leave me,” Binayak Sen’s distraught brother Dipankar, in tears, told reporters at the court.

“This is a fabricated case by the Chhattisgarh government and police. We will go for appeal,” said Kavita Srivastava, general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), of which Sen is a vice president.

Rights activists had thronged the trial court Friday ahead of the verdict.

Police had sounded an alert in an around the court premises.

“I am shocked. We never expected this because there was not a shred of evidence against him. This is a sad day for our democracy,” PUCL secretary Mahipal Singh told IANS in New Delhi.

“We have just got the summary of the judgment, so it will take some time for us to decide the legal course of action,” he said.

Angry reactions also came from abroad. The case against Sen is fraudulent, said Nepal’s Maoist lawmaker Hari Roka in Kathmandu.

“Binayak Sen is a rights activist and should not be dragged into such charges,” said Roka, Maoist MP and Jawaharlal Nehru University research student.

“It is wrong and condemnable. The Indian authorities should reconsider the verdict,” he said. Roka, who was nominated to Nepal’s parliament by the Maoist party, also said that the president of India, who had pre-emptive powers, should exercise them to free the physician who commanded widespread respect in India and abroad.

Another Maoist MP and former chief of the party’s foreign affairs, Chandra Prakash Gajurel, said the sentence should be challenged in the higher courts.

Since coming to Chhattisgarh in 1981, Sen had spent much of his time to bring healthcare to tribals in the impoverished tribal areas.

The case against Binayak Sen continued even as guerrillas from the Communist Party of India-Maoist stepped up attacks on security forces in Chhattisgarh, killing scores of them. The state’s Bharatiya Janata Party government has been accused of acting tough against rights activists.

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