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News report on Solidarity Protest in London and Bombay

From:The Hindu, 15 May 2009

Rally in London for Binayak Sen

Hasan Suroor

Protesters, who came from across britain deman his release from Chattisgarh jail (Photo: AFP)

GLOBAL OUTRAGE: A demonstration outside the Indian High Commission in London on Thursday calling for the release of rights activist Binayak Sen, who is being held in a jail in Chhattisgarh on charges of assisting Maoists.

LONDON: A large group of academics, doctors and rights campaigners held a protest outside the Indian High Commission here on Thursday demanding the release of human rights activist Binayak Sen.

Mr. Sen has been languishing in a Chhattisgarh jail for two years over his alleged links with Maoist groups.

The protesters, who came from across Britain, carried placards calling for withdrawal of “false charges” against Dr. Sen and raised slogans such as “Indian democracy shame, shame.”

Intervention sought

A petition urging Home Minister P. Chidambaram to intervene was given to the High Commission, according to a spokesperson of the South Asia Solidarity Group which organised the protest with the Indian Workers’ Association and “Release Binayak Sen Now Campaign” to coincide with the second anniversary of Dr. Sen’s incarceration.

Meanwhile, more British MPs put their names to an Early Day Parliamentary motion expressing concern over the continued detention of Dr. Sen and demanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention.

The motion called Dr. Sen’s imprisonment a “grave case of violation of human rights,” and alleged that he was being held on “politically-motivated and trumped-up charges.”
Fair trial denied

Rights campaigners said that Dr. Sen, who was awarded the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights, had been denied a fair trial.

In a statement they denounced his arrest as an attempt to “silence peaceful dissent by imprisoning lawful humanitarian activists on charges of terrorism.”
Brother makes an impassionate appeal

Mumbai Special Correspondent reports:

On the second anniversary of activist and public health professional Binayak Sen’s arrest, his brother Dipankar Sen said he was looking for answers for the arrest of Dr. Sen and he had done nothing wrong to justify that kind of treatment.

Speaking at a public meeting in Mumbai on Thursday to demand the release of Dr. Sen, Mr. Dipankar Sen, who lives in Belgium, said that he was not involved in the politics of the region but just a few days before his brother’s arrest on May 14, 2007, he called him and asked him not to go back to Chhattisgarh. Dr. Sen was adamant.

Mr. Sen said that his patients sometimes walked for two days to meet Dr. Sen and he would return to Bilaspur. “He is a poor man’s doctor. I can’t imagine what he could have done to warrant his arrest. The family has been living through hell,” he said.

The Mumbai meeting is part of an international show of solidarity for Dr. Sen and protests are being held in 25 States in India alone. Mr. Sen said he had met many people in the government and officials, including Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and senior police officials of Chhattisgarh, but he had not got any answers.

“What is his crime that he cannot be given bail? It has been rejected three times and we are all gripped by absolute fear. His fate will be sealed if the Supreme Court does not act,” he said. He and his family believed that Dr. Sen had done nothing wrong and they had full faith in the system of justice.

Two months ago, Dr. Sen was advised an angiography but the court still had to give him permission. Film-maker Anand Patwardhan said that Dr. Sen was a heart patient and the whole issue had now become one of life and death. He had to be released without any delay, Mr. Patwardhan demanded.

He said that other countries had risen in strong protest against Dr. Sen’s arrest and Amnesty International had called him a prisoner of conscience. Health activist Amar Jesani, who has known Dr. Sen for over 25 years, said his only crime was that he dared to raise his voice for the poor and fight for their rights.

“This is a message that the government wants to send out — you will not be spared if you take up for what you think is right, even if you are in a critical condition. Dr. Binayak Sen has become a symbol of this fight and unless he is released the struggle cannot stop.”

The principal charge against Dr. Sen was that he was smuggling letters to and from an ailing and elderly imprisoned Maoist leader, Narayan Sanyal.

In the capacity of a human rights activist and a doctor of some repute, Dr. Sen had been visiting Sanyal in the Raipur jail with due permission from the jailor.