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India

Elderly Indian Jesuit priest's custody extended again

Jail refused to accept warm clothes sent for 84-year-old Father Swamy

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Updated: November 08, 2020 04:27 AM GMT
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Elderly Indian Jesuit priest's custody extended again

Father Stan Swamy has consistently denied any connections to Maoist rebels. (Photo: UCA News)

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A special court in India has further extended the judicial custody of an elderly Jesuit priest facing sedition charges.

The court of th National Investigation Agency (NIA) based in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra state in western India, extended the judicial custody of Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old social activist, for another 21 days to Nov. 26 when the case will be heard again.

The same court on Oct. 23 had directed the priest's personal appearance in the court. However, officials did not produce him reportedly on account of his advanced age and the Covid-19 threat.

Officials of the NIA, a federal anti-terror combat unit, arrested Father Swamy on Oct. 8 from his residence on the outskirts of Ranchi, Jharkhand's capital in eastern India.

He is accused of sedition and having links with an outlawed Maoist group.

The following day, the priest was produced in the special court in Mumbai and was remanded in 14-day judicial custody despite his old age and various ailments.

His case links him with violence in Bhima-Koregaon, a town in Maharashtra, on Jan. 1. 2018, in which one person died and several were injured.

The priest's lawyers on Oct. 23 pleaded for an interim order based on his advanced age and health-related problems, but the court turned down the request and extended judicial custody.

"Since the priest is charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), even his phone calls are limited," said Jesuit Father A. Santhanam, a lawyer who is monitoring the case. "He is allowed to make phone calls only once a fortnight."

However, Father Swamy can write and receive letters under thorough scrutiny, Father Santhanam told UCA News on Nov. 7.

Father Swami uses whatever "opportunity available to communicate with the outside world, especially his legal counsels," Father Santhanam said.

He said jail authorities refused to accept warm clothes sent for Father Swamy.

A fresh petition was filed in the same court on Nov. 6 seeking to provide Father Swamy with a straw and a sipper as he cannot consume liquid comfortably because of his Parkinson's disease, the priest said.

"The court has not passed any order on the genuine demand," he said.

Father Swamy is among 16 persons facing trial for sedition, conspiracy and links with Maoist rebels, among other serious charges.

The United Nations and opposition parties have criticized the Indian government for jailing the elderly priest and others associated with the sedition case.

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