03/31/2021, 15.23
INDIA
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More than 2,500 people sign an appeal for Fr Stan Swamy’s release

Academics, activists, writers, directors, religious and other prominent people have signed an open letter against the court’s decision to deny bail to the 84-year-old Jesuit, who has been in jail in Mumbai since last October on terrorism charges. In reality, his legal woes are due to his support for tribal rights. “Stan Swamy is a symbol of the plight of thousands of undertrial prisoners”.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – More than 2,500 prominent Indians have signed an appeal criticising a court decision rejecting Fr Stan Swamy’s bail application. The 84-year-old Jesuit has been in prison since October in Mumbai on terrorism charges.

Launched by fellow clergyman and human rights activist Fr Cedric Prakash, the open letter, which calls for Fr Stan’s immediate release, was signed by people from all walks of life: academics, artists, directors, economists, religious, journalists, lawyers, former public officials, and writers.

Rejection of the bail of an elderly and ailing person, with limited mobility and no history of violence against others, is beyond comprehension,” reads the letter.

The text suggests that the charges are the result of doctored evidence, fake documents the National Investigation Agency says it found on Fr Stan’s computer, which he says are not his.

The signatories also want to see “a return to the norm where bail is the rule not the exception.” Here is the letter:

We, the undersigned, are shocked by the rejection of a bail application filed by Stan Swamy in the Bhima Koregaon case by the special NIA (National Investigation Agency) court on 22 March 2021. He was arrested on 8 October 2020 and continues to languish in jail.

Eighty-four-year old Stan Swamy is a Parkinson’s disease patient with severe tremors in both hands. He has trouble drinking from a glass, taking bath and washing clothes on his own. He has other health ailments as well. Before his arrest, he used to spend most of his time at Bagaicha, Ranchi. Despite being repeatedly harassed (first by Maharashtra police and then the NIA) since 2018 in this case, he stayed in Bagaicha and cooperated fully with the investigation. Rejection of the bail of an elderly and ailing person, with limited mobility and no history of violence against others, is beyond comprehension.

We know Stan as an exceptionally gentle, honest and selfless person. We have the highest regard for him and his work. He has spent decades in Jharkhand working for the rights of the Adivasis and underprivileged.

It is ironic that while public support for Stan Swamy continues to grow, the court rejected the bail application in the “community’s interest”. Adivasis, Gram Sabhas, civil society, several political leaders and parties, and Jharkhand’s Chief Minister himself have condemned Stan’s arrest and expressed support and solidarity with him.

The recent Arsenal report, prepared on the basis of electronic evidence collected by the NIA, has exposed how fake documents were planted into the computers of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. Stan himself clearly told the NIA that some so-called extracts allegedly taken from his computer were fabricated and that he disowned them. It is disturbing that the court decided to ignore this evidence of fabrication as it rejected the bail application.

Stan Swamy is a symbol of the plight of thousands of undertrial prisoners who languish in jail for years under fabricated UAPA[*] charges, often aimed at harassing those who stand up for the underprivileged or oppose the government. The conviction rate in UAPA cases is extremely low (2.2% between 2016-19 as mentioned in the Parliament), confirming that many of the charges are baseless.

We appeal for immediate bail for Stan Swamy, repeal of UAPA, and a return to the norm where bail is the rule not the exception.


[*] Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

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