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Church welcomes bail for activist

Rita Joseph, New Delhi

April 15, 2011

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Church leaders and human rights activists today welcomed the granting of bail to civil rights activist Binayak Sen and dropping of sedition charges against him by the Supreme Court. Sen had challenged a Chhattisgarh high court order that rejected his bail plea on February 10. Earlier, Sen had filed a petition in the high court on January 6, challenging a district and sessions court order that had convicted him on various charges, including sedition, and had sentenced him to life imprisonment. The apex court ruled that no sedition case can be made against Sen as mere possession of Naxal literature does not make a person a Naxalite or guilty of sedition. Reacting to the Supreme Court order, Father Charles Irudayam, Secretary of the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said it was good news for all involved in similar human rights issues. “It is a victory for the democratic system in India. Though delayed, it proved that there is space for people involved in social issues like human rights, justice and peace. Now people will not hesitate to take up the cudgels on behalf of those who suffer injustice”. Describing the jailed doctor as a great symbol of humanity and a champion of human rights and human dignity, social activist Swami Agnivesh said all like-minded people throughout the country and the world are extremely happy. “The Supreme Court has upheld our fundamental right to work for the poor and fight for their justice, whether or not we have any sympathies with Maoism or Gandhism”. He said this has opened the door for a serious review of hundreds of other cases of social activists who are languishing in various state jails under fake charges of being Maoist sympathizers. “We are very hopeful now that the state government will on its own reconsider and review the cases and set them free or release them on bail”. John Dayal, a church leader who has been campaigning for Sen’s release, said he hoped other cases against the rights activist would be dismissed so he would be finally exonerated. “We fully support his struggle for the poor and the marginalized, specially the tribals of Chattisgarh”. IC13992.1649

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