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Civil society condemns activists’ conviction under UAPA

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/article3534852.ece

Human rights activists, members of civil society and journalist came together on Friday to condemn the conviction of activists Seema Azad and her husband Vishwavijay Kamal under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. They also announced a nationwide public campaign to demand immediate release of the activists.

Speaking at a Press conference here, Justice Rajinder Sachar said the judgment of the Allahabad Sessions court was based on “little evidence and application of mind”. Just because Ms. Azad was in possession of literature did not mean she committed an offense, said Justice Sachar.

“There is a wide chasm between possessing literature and committing an offence, which cannot be bridged by the flimsy arguments brought forth by the prosecution and accepted by the judge,” Justice Sachar added.

Ms. Azad is the editor of bimonthly ‘Dastak’ magazine and organisation secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Uttar Pradesh). Ms. Azad, a post-graduate in psychology from Allahabad University, and her husband Vishwavijay were arrested in Allahabad on February 6, 2010, on charges of being members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and involved in unlawful activities.

They were convicted and awarded life term on June 8 after about two-and-a-half years in jail.

Arguing it was within the powers of the U.P. Government to withdraw the “false charges”, Justice Sachar urged the State Government to “nullify the wrongdoings of the last government in the State and withdraw false charges against the activists”.

Senior advocate Ravi Kiran argued that even a cursory reading of the FIR proved that the registration of criminal case against Ms. Azad was “premeditated”.

“The literature ostensibly seized from Ms. Azad, which had been sealed as evidence, was opened by the prosecution without any authorisation. In normal circumstances this would make the entire evidence suspect but the judge continued to rely on this evidence,” argued Mr. Kiran.

Senior journalist Anand Swaroop Verma, who has been spearheading a campaign against the activists’ conviction, said Ms. Azad was being targeted since she was a bold voice against the takeover of farmers’ land and had been writing about the witch-hunt of Muslim youths in Azamgarh by the Government and its security establishment.