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Cartoonist accepts court bail offer

Artist initially refused to leave jail

Swati Deb, New Delhi

September 12, 2012

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A cartoonist jailed on Monday has decided to accept a bail offer from Maharashtra state’s top court after initially refusing to leave his prison until sedition charges against him were dropped. Aseem Trivedi left  jail today with the charges still in place. He was arrested at the weekend for allegedly drawing seditious cartoons. In the cartoons he depicted the national parliament as a giant toilet and replaced India’s three lions emblem with three wolves dripping blood from their mouths with the words “long live corruption” written underneath. Yesterday, the Bombay High Court granted Trivedi bail of 5,000 rupees (US$90). However,  he refused to leave the jail until the sedition charges against him were dropped. Earlier, he had refused the services of a lawyer. His arrest has caused an outcry among civil rights activists, artists and media groups in India and overseas. They are accusing the state government of clamping down on freedom of expression. The International Press Institute's Indian national committee called Trivedi’s arrest “outrageous.” Committee chairperson N. Ravi said the basic aim of the cartoons was to mock the "pretentions" of politicians and bureaucrats vis-à-vis the corruption menace. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also slammed the cartoonist’s arrest. "Criminalizing Aseem Trivedi's efforts to highlight the serious problem of corruption is a perverse exercise of power and runs completely counter to India's democratic principles," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. Malini Parthasarthy, former executive editor of The Hindu newspaper, warned that the arrest betrayed the rise of authoritarian tendencies in the ruling Congress Party. “[It’s] better the Congress leadership wakes up before it’s too late,” she said. Responding to the barrage of criticism, the Congress-led governments in both New Delhi and Maharashtra denied Trivedi’s arrest was politically motivated. Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil told yesterday that the state police had nothing against Trivedi and that they acted according to provisions under the law. “The investigating agency and police have applied sedition charges. It has nothing to do with our government,” he said. Federal Law Minister Salman Khurshid also dismissed the criticism, saying that “the law will take its own course" and claimed that the government or those in power had no control over Indian court procedures.
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