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Christians demand release of rights activist

Government in India accused of targeting civil liberties defenders

Christians demand release of rights activist
Christian protestors hold a candlelight vigil at India Gate in New Delhi
Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

January 5, 2011

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Several Christian groups in New Delhi protested Jan. 4 against the jailing of a human rights activist for sedition. Binayak Sen, who is also a doctor, was convicted of aiding Maoists in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh and sentenced to life on Dec. 24, 2010. The “Free Binayak Sen” campaign demanded the immediate release of Sen and launched a month-long initiative to distribute blankets and feed the homeless in India’s capital. Braving the biting cold, the protesters staged a candlelight vigil at the India Gate in support of Sen and another activist Teesta Setalvad, who has arrest warrants  issued against her. * The protest was led by Delhi Archdiocese, the All India Christian Council, the National Council of Churches in India and other groups. In a letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Christian groups expressed their concerns over the treatment meted out to Sen. “It is with deep distress and anguish that we point out to you that human rights defenders are being targeted, and silenced, by all sorts of forces,” the letter stated. “We cannot remain silent spectators to such erosion of truth and injustice,” it added. Sen, who is vice-president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), worked as a doctor, treating poor people in the rural-tribal areas of Chhattisgarh. As a human rights activist, Sen strongly criticized the state government for human rights violations during anti-Maoist operations, while advocating non-violent political engagement. He was arrested in May 2007 for allegedly supporting the Maoists. Meanwhile, 250 physicians, medical professionals and students in Kolkata, eastern India, also held a demonstration demanding his immediate and unconditional release. Related reports Activist’s life sentence widely condemned Church welcomes bail for jailed human rights doctor *This paragraph has been corrected. The earlier version had erroneously reported that Teesta Setalvad had been jailed. IC12713.1635
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