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Scots protest at 'politically motivated' life sentence for Indian doctor

Photo opportunity: Amnesty to hand over thousands of signatures demanding justice for Dr Binayak Sen

Where: Indian Consulate, 17 Rutland Square, Edinburgh EH1 2BB

When: 1-1.30pm, Wednesday 19 January.

Amnesty International will hand over thousands of signatures demanding justice for Dr Binayak Sen at the Indian Consulate in Edinburgh at 1pm on Wednesday 19 January.

Dr Sen was handed a life sentence on Christmas Eve after being charged with sedition and conspiracy, charges which Amnesty believe are politically motivated and aimed at stopping his human rights work.

Dr Sen’s case was highlighted during the 2009 Edinburgh Festival with thousands of Scots pledging their support for the Indian doctor and demanding all charges against him be dropped. A mosaic of his image constructed from their signatures will be handed over to the Consul General, Mr Anil Kumar Anan.

Amnesty International Programme Director in Scotland, John Watson, said:
“Dr Sen is a prisoner of conscience, convicted through trumped up charges due to his speaking out against the human rights abuses perpetrated against the poor and marginalised peoples of the Chhattisgarh region of Central India. He was convicted under laws that fall short of international standards following years of persecution.

“The support which Dr Sen has received from the people of Scotland is a recognition of his human rights work and his courage to speak out against the atrocities committed against his people. The thousands of signatures which Amnesty has received in support of Dr Sen are testament of the deep rooted sense of justice which exists amongst Scots.
“Instead of persecuting Dr Sen, authorities in Chhattisgarh should be acting to protect the people of the region from the abuses committed by the Maoists, as well as state security forces and militias.
“State and federal authorities in India should immediately drop these politically-motivated charges against Dr Sen and release him.”

Background information:

Dr Binayak Sen was originally arrested in May 2007, detained without proper charges for seven months, denied bail, and kept in solitary confinement for three weeks. The courts repeatedly refused bail until May 2009. He was immediately taken into custody after the handing down of the life sentence at the end of last year – a ruling which Amnesty says violates international fair trial standards and is likely to enflame tensions in the conflict-affected area.

Dr Sen is a pioneer of health care to marginalised and indigenous communities in Chhattisgarh in Central India, where the state police and armed Maoists have been engaged in clashes over the last seven years. He has reported on 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 armed Maoists. Police claim that he acted as a 'courier' for Narayan Sanyal, an imprisoned leader of the banned Communist Party of India (CPI-Maoist). Although Dr Sen met Naranyan Sanyal in prison many times, his visits were supervised and facilitated by prison authorities.

Many of the charges against Dr Sen stem from laws that contravene international standards. Repeated delays in the conduct of his trial have cast doubts about its fairness. He was convicted of sedition and conspiracy under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act (2005) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (2004).
India's central government has acknowledged that the intensifying armed conflict with the Maoists in central India is a reflection of serious inequities and a history of human rights violations in the area. Amnesty believes that the charges against Dr Sen are baseless and politically-motivated. The organisation has repeatedly called on the Indian authorities to drop all the charges against Dr Sen.

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