Father Stan Swamy (Photo: supplied)
A special court in India's business capital Mumbai extended the judicial custody of an octogenarian Indian Jesuit for another two more weeks on Oct. 23, rejecting his plea for an interim-bail considering his advanced age and poor health.
The 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy was arrested on Oct. 8 on sedition charges and links with an outlawed Maoist group by National Investigation Agency (NIA), the federal anti-terror combat unit.
He completed 14 days of judicial custody on Oct. 22.The special court dealing with NIA cases agreed with investigators that the priest was arrested on non-bailable charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), his lawyers said.
"We sought an interim bail because of his old age, various sickness and also because of the perceived threat to his life from Covid-19 pandemic. But it was turned down," said Jesuit Father A Santhanam, a lawyer connected with the case.
The court extended his remand for another two weeks until Nov. 5.
Father Santhanam, a practicing lawyer in the Madurai bench of the Tamil Nadu High Court, told UCA News on Oct. 24 that the lawyers are now seeking "other legal recourses available in due course of time for relief to the elderly priest."
As part of his social activism, Father Swamy worked to secure freedom for young tribal men, arrested and jailed as undertrials, accused of being members of Maoist groups engaged in violence in eastern Jharkhand state.
Father Swamy is based in Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand state.
Soon after his arrest, Father Swamy was taken to Mumbai, Maharashtra state's capital in western India. He is accused of inciting violence in Bhima-Koregaon, a town in Maharashtra, on Jan. 1. 2018, in which one person was killed, and several others sustained wounds.
The priest maintained that he never visited Bhima-Koregaon. Hours before his arrest in a video posted on social media, he claimed the charges against him were part of a wider move to suppress dissent against government policies.
Father Swamy is among the 16 persons facing trial for sedition, conspiracy, and links with Maoist rebels, among other serious charges.
Rights activists say the arrested were framed for fighting against oppression and exploitation of the hapless tribal people, socially poor Dalits, and other weaker sections.
The civil society groups in India continue to with street demonstrations, webinars, online petitions seeking the release of the 16 people arrested and jailed.