Indian Prisoner of Conscience Dr. Binayak Sen Completes Two Years in Jail

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Indian Prisoner of Conscience Dr. Binayak Sen Completes Two Years in Jail

Human Rights Organization Calls on Indian Authorities to Immediately Release Human Rights Defender

WASHINGTON - The Indian authorities should
immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Binayak Sen, a human rights
defender and pioneer of health care to marginalized communities, who has
languished in jail for two years, Amnesty International said today.

Dr Sen, 59, was arrested on May 14, 2007,
when he was charged with facilitating armed Maoist violence and put on
trial; this resumes tomorrow, April 24, 2009. If convicted, he could face
a life term in jail.

Amnesty International believes that the charges
and evidence against Dr. Sen are baseless and politically motivated.

“Dr. Sen’s prolonged imprisonment is a
glaring example of how the Indian authorities misuse security legislation
to target activists,” said Madhu Malhotra, deputy director of Amnesty
International’s Asia-Pacific program

“These new powers are open to abuse as they
contain vague and sweeping definitions of ‘unlawful activities’. Under
no circumstances should work that peacefully defends human rights be termed
an ‘unlawful activity," she said.

The security legislation enables the authorities
to arbitrarily arrest and detain individuals, as well as seek their punishment,
on unclear grounds. This is in violation of the principle of certainty
in criminal law, reflected in Article 15 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a state party.

Amnesty International is also gravely concerned
that Dr.
Sen was detained without proper charges for seven months, denied bail,
and kept in solitary confinement. Many of the charges against him stem
from laws that contravene international standards. Repeated delays in the
conduct of his trial have also heightened doubts about its fairness.

Amnesty International understands that Dr.
Sen’s earlier meetings with jailed Maoist leaders (on which some of the
accusations against him are based) were limited to his legitimate professional
work as a doctor and a human rights defender and facilitated by the jail
authorities.

Prior to his arrest, Dr. Sen had criticized
the state authorities for enacting special security legislation - the Chhattisgarh
Special Public Safety Act, 2005 (CSPSA). He had also highlighted unlawful
killings of adivasis (indigenous people) by the police and by Salwa Judum,
a private militia widely held to be sponsored by the state authorities
to fight the guerrillas of the CPI (Maoist). The state authorities have
so far failed to conduct effective and impartial investigations into these
unlawful killings.

Dr .Sen’s
wife, Dr. Ilina Sen, who regularly visits him at the jail, has reported
to Amnesty International that Dr. Sen suffers from recurrent chest pain
and needs specialist medical care, but the state government has denied
Dr. Sen’s plea for transfer to a hospital outside Raipur.

Amnesty International calls on the Indian
authorities to:

*release Dr. Sen immediately and unconditionally;

*ensure Dr. Sen has access to medical treatment
of his choice while he remains in custody;
*ensure fair and prompt trials for at least
50 prisoners in Chhattisgarh who face charges under various security legislations;

*take effective measures to respect and protect
the rights of human rights defenders, in line with the UN Declaration on
Human Rights Defenders. This includes ensuring that they are not arbitrarily
detained, hindered or otherwise harassed because of the legitimate exercise
of their human rights.

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