Scotland: Wife of doctor jailed on “trumped up charges” calls on Scottish people for support

The wife of an Indian doctor, who has received international recognition for his work with poor communities, is seeking Scottish support for the campaign to release him from jail.

Dr Binayak Sen has spent three decades serving poor communities in the Chhattisgarh state in central India. He was arrested in May 2007 on what Amnesty International calls “trumped up charges”. His supporters, including over 2,000 doctors and 22 Nobel prize winners, maintain that the charges against him are politically motivated and aimed at stopping his human rights work.

Dr Sen’s wife – Prof. Ilina Sen, a noted human rights campaigner in her own right – is spearheading an international campaign on his behalf. She will visit Edinburgh on Monday 9th March for a series of meetings to enlist the support of politicians, journalists, human rights groups and students.

A Scottish branch of the international campaign has now been set up to support the visit and can boast local residents who have known and worked with Dr Sen in India.

Anuj Kapilashrami, the Chair of “Scottish Action for the Release of Binayak Sen” said:

“In Scotland poverty and public health are at the top of the political agenda and the subject of passionate debates. Yet here we have a leading doctor thrown in jail simply for demanding action to tackle poor health and inequality.”

John Watson, Amnesty International Scotland highlighted the importance of this case:

“It is wrong for any state to suppress democratic voices that are speaking out against human rights violations. An honourable man has been locked up on trumped up charges and we condemn his continued imprisonment ”

Professor Allyson Pollock, Head the Centre for Public Health Policy, Edinburgh University supports the campaign and is spearheading a joint letter by academics demanding immediate action for the release of Dr. Sen. She said:

“Dr. Sen epitomises the rare commitment of public health professionals for the lives of the poor in the most underdeveloped regions. His continued detention penalises him for his internationally recognized pioneering work in establishing links between health and human rights”

Dr Binayak Sen’s work was recognised with the Jonathan Mann award by the Global Health Council in 2008.

Ends

Further information can be obtained from www.binayaksen.net and by contacting: Anuj Kapilashrami 07877 149 790 scottishaction.binayak@googlemail.com

Interview opportunity. Spokespeople who have known and worked with Dr Sen will be available for interview around the visit. Ilina Sen will be available for interview on Monday 9th March, and for telephone interviews on other days by arrangement.

Notes to Editors:

1) After a day of meetings in Edinburgh, Ilina Sen and Kavita Srivastava will speak at a free public event on Monday 9th March in Edinburgh University’s Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15A George Square (northwest corner). The meeting will start at 6pm and be chaired by John Watson, Scottish Programme Director for Amnesty International. The other speaker will be Kavita Srivastava, a colleague from the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in India, who is also at the forefront of the campaign for his release.
A post card campaign and petition to Home Minister will be launched at the public meeting.

2) The case against Binayak Sen centres on police allegations that he passed letters between imprisoned members of a banned leftist group. However, Amnesty International has stated that the charges against him are politically motivated, aimed at stopping his human rights work. Dr Sen, a pioneer in providing accessible health care to the rural poor, has been documenting the impact of conflict in the region on the rights of marginalised communities.

3) Questions are also being asked about whether ABN-Amro Bank, a subsidiary of RBS, still has links to Vedanta, a mining company accused of environmental and labour law violations in Chhattisgarh, and possible links to Government crack-down on activists. More details available if requested.

4) See http://www.globalhealth.org/view_top.php3?id=238 for further information on the Jonathan Mann award.

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