Scotland: Chain gang of shackled doctors highlight plight of doctor imprisoned on 'trumped up charges'

A “chain gang” of shackled doctors will parade in Edinburgh to call for the release of one particular doctor who dared to speak out on behalf of his patients – and was thrown into jail for his troubles.

Individually handcuffed, and chained together, 30 campaigners dressed as doctors with white coats, stethoscopes and masks will highlight the plight of Dr Binayak Sen, an award-winning paediatrician who has spent three decades serving poor communities in central India. He was imprisoned on 14th May 2007 on what Amnesty International has called “trumped up charges”, with his only crime being to expose the negative impact of government policies on poor people in the region.

Dr Sen’s arrest has been condemned worldwide by renowned doctors and in a letter signed by 22 Nobel laureates. The second anniversary of his imprisonment is being marked in cities around the world, including Edinburgh, Bristol and London.

Anuj Kapilashrami, a researcher at Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University and chair of Scottish Action for Binayak Sen, said: “Poverty and public health are at the top of the global political and economic agenda. Yet, here we have a leading doctor incarcerated for two years, simply for demanding action to tackle poor health, inequality and injustice! The Government of India's silence on this matter is shocking.”

John Watson, Scottish Programme Director for Amnesty International, said: “The Brazilian bishop Hélder Câmara, famously stated that ‘When I feed the hungry, they call me a saint, but when I ask why people should be hungry, they call me a communist.’ Considering Dr Binayak Sen’s position, these words ring shockingly true.”

In his capacity as general secretary of human rights group “People’s Union of Civil Liberties” Dr Sen visited prisoners to provide legal and medical assistance and with the full knowledge of and permission from the jail authorities. The authorities allege that he passed letters between imprisoned members of a banned leftist group, despite his visits being supervised and facilitated by the prison authorities.

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