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Elderly Indian Jesuit's bail postponed amid concerns

Suspicions are growing that the sick priest's bail is being delayed for political reasons

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: February 19, 2021 08:03 AM GMT
Elderly Indian Jesuit's bail postponed amid concerns

Father Stan Swamy has been denied bail several times since he was arrested on Oct. 8. (Photo: YouTube)

A special court is set to pronounce its verdict on the bail application of an elderly Indian Jesuit activist five months after his arrest and detention on charges of sedition.

The special court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the federal anti-terror agency, has set March 2 to announce the result of the bail application of 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy.

“We are happy that finally the court has fixed a date for announcing its order on the bail application,” said Father A. Santhanam, a Jesuit lawyer based in Tamil Nadu state who is following the case.

Rights activists are concerned that the sick priest’s bail is being delayed for political reasons.

He has been denied bail several times since he was arrested on Oct. 8 from his residence in Ranchi, capital of eastern India’s Jharkhand state, and detained in a jail in Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra state.

Father Swamy applied for regular bail on Nov. 26 after his first bail application on health grounds in the same court was turned down on Oct. 23, close to a fortnight after his arrest.

In the latest development, Father Swamy’s counsel completed his arguments on Feb. 12 requesting the court to grant the elderly priest bail.

However, the case was posted for Feb. 16 after the NIA sought more time to submit the case diary and opposed his release on the plea that the probe was still underway.

The court concluded the hearing on the bail demand on Feb. 16 after the NIA submitted the case diary, but it postponed its verdict.

“Generally, we don’t see courts taking so much time in deciding a bail application after completing the hearing,” Father Santhanam, a lawyer practicing in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai court, told UCA News on Feb. 18.

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“The elderly priest is already unwell and is unable to discharge his daily chores without help from others. We want to provide him with better health care.”

Father Swamy is among 16 accused over violence in Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra state on Jan. 1, 2018, in which one person was killed and several others injured.

The accused are charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), making it almost impossible to gain bail, unlike in other cases.

Meanwhile, Father Swamy’s lawyers visited the NIA office in Mumbai on Feb. 13 in compliance with an instruction from the special court on Feb. 12 for a cloned copy of the priest’s laptop and hard drive, Father Santhanam said.

“But we did not get the cloned copy of the laptop or hard drive. The NIA did not inform the court about not giving it during the Feb. 12 hearing,” he said.

Last week Father Swamy approached the court to get a cloned copy of his laptop and hard drive after a US-based digital lab found incriminating evidence was planted in the computer of Rona Wilson, another accused in the same case.

Father Swamy suspects the possibility of incriminating documents being planted in his laptop.

Rights activists who support Father Swamy and others accused in the sedition case say those arrested are facing stringent charges for their known criticism of the federal government run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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