04/20/2006, 00.00
INDIA
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Gujarat High Court revokes arrest warrants without bail, "tools of repression"

by Nirmala Carvalho
Jesuit Fr Cedric Prakash is satisfied the court order will limit intimidation by the authorities against human rights activists.

Godhra (AsiaNews) – The Gujarat High Court has ruled that arrest warrants without bail are illegal. Police and justice authorities largely used them in recent years against human rights activists who have been trying to shed light on who was behind the 2002 communal carnage against local Muslims.

"I am satisfied with the Gujarat High Court order. It clearly stated that a warrant without bail cannot be issued," said Fr Cedric Prakash, head of Prashant, an organisation involved in human rights, justice and peace. This legal procedure was used by the authorities as a weapon of intimidation against human rights activists.

Well-known for his work in the human rights field, Father Prakash was honoured by India's President with the Kabir Puraskar Award for "his work in the promotion of communal peace and harmony".

The Jesuit priest got involved in this matter after sectarian violence engulfed Gujarat in 2002. Recently he travelled to Lunawada in Panchmahal District where the remains of other victims were found. Subsequently, he received threats and intimidations to end his struggle for justice for the victims and their families.

For the clergyman, recent arrest warrants issued without bail against people trying to raise awareness about the Pandharwada massacre that left more than 40 people dead (only 21 according to official sources) is nothing short of an attempt to intimidate victims who have already suffered from mass violence and lost loved ones.

'Citizens for Justice and Peace', a committee of 17 people of which he is a member, set up a 'Concerned Citizens' Tribunal which investigated the tragedy. Its findings have been put together in a voluminous report entitled 'Crime Against Humanity' which slams state police in Lunawada for not resisting pressures from police administration and state government officials to continue intimidate survivors and activists and covering up illegal mass burials of those who were killed in 2002.

Arrest warrants were in fact issued against Mehboob Rasul Chauhan, Habib Rasul Saiyed, Sikander Abbas Shaikh, Kutubsha Ayubsha Diwan and Gulam Ghani Kharadi, who had survived the carnage, as well as Shri Rais Khan of "Citizens for Justice and Peace".

"This type of intimidation clearly show that Gujarat police is seeking vengeance, and that the arrest warrants without bail were obtained by misleading the court since those targeted were not required to appear in court on April 18," Father Prakash said.

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