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Indian Jesuit's bail delayed as court postpones hearing

Elderly priest remains in jail after National Investigation Agency failed to respond to bail application

Indian Jesuit's bail delayed as court postpones hearing

Father Stan Swamy has denied charges of sedition, conspiracy and links to Maoist rebels. (Photo: YouTube)

Freedom for 84-year-old Jesuit Father Stan Swamy has been further delayed after a special court postponed hearing his bail application for another week, two months after he was arrested on charges of having links to an outlawed Maoist group.

The special court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the federal anti-terror agency, was due to hear the application on Dec. 4, but it postponed the hearing to Dec. 10, saying the investigators had asked for more time to respond.

The priest has been detained in a jail in Mumbai, the capital of India’s Maharashtra state, since being arrested on Oct. 8 on sedition charges.

After the court rejected his bail application on health ground on Oct. 23, the elderly priest suffering from Parkinson's disease on Nov. 26 filed a petition seeking regular bail. The court posted the application for Dec. 4 while seeking a response from the NIA.

"The NIA, however, did not respond and sought more time to file its reply on the elderly priest's demand, and now it will also be taken up on Dec. 10 for hearing," said Jesuit Father A. Santhanam, who is closely monitoring the case.

Father Santhanam, a practicing lawyer on the Madurai bench of Tamil Nadu High Court in southern India, said Father Swamy "has not yet got his belongings seized at the time of his arrest and therefore he also sought direction from the court for obtaining them."

NIA officials seized his laptop from his residence in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state in eastern India, among other articles during one raid.

"Now he has sought a cloned copy of the hard disk to present his side when the trial starts," said Father Santhanam.

The priest has also filed another application before the same court against his transfer from his present jail without the permission of the court, Father Santhanam told UCA News on Dec. 4.

He said there was a reported attempt to transfer him from Taloja Central Prison for unknown reasons.

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The NIA has charged Father Swamy under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for violence in 2018 in Maharashtra's Bhima Koregaon area in which one person was killed and several others wounded.

Just before his arrest, Father Swamy had accused NIA officials of framing him over the violence by interpolating his computer and other digital materials.

The priest faces charges of sedition, conspiracy and links to outlawed Maoist rebels, among other allegations.

Father Swamy and his supporters have denied all charges. They accuse the government of falsely framing him for his opposition to the policies of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the federal government and other state governments.

The priest is among 16 right activists detained over the same case. Church groups and civil society are organizing special programs to support them. They are demanding their unconditional release on grounds that they were charged falsely for their opposition to the ruling dispensation in New Delhi and their critical views of the police and the BJP.

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