Unwell Indian doctor remains in jail

The year-long trial of Indian human rights activist Dr Binayak Sen suffered another delay on Monday, further prolonging the doctor’s unjust stay in jail.

Dr Sen’s trial has been adjourned for a month. Also, he continues to be deprived of specialist medical care at a place of his choice, despite fears for his health.

Dr Sen, a pioneer of health care to marginalized and indigenous communities in Chhattisgarh state, has languished in jail for two years. He was arrested on 14 May 2007 and was charged with facilitating armed Maoist violence.

Amnesty International believes that the charges and evidence against Dr Sen are baseless and politically motivated. It has called on the Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Dr Sen.

“Dr Sen’s prolonged imprisonment is a glaring example of how the Indian authorities misuse security legislation to target activists,” said Madhu Malhotra, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Programme.

“These are open to abuse as they contain vague and sweeping definitions of ‘unlawful activities’. Under no circumstances should work that peacefully defends human rights be termed an ‘unlawful activity’.”.

The security legislation enables the authorities to arbitrarily arrest and detain individuals, as well as seek their punishment, on unclear grounds.

Dr Sen’s trial resumed last week at Raipur district court but it moved slowly, leading to an adjournment until 25-27 May. Pending a plea for bail, Dr Sen will be forced to remain in prison until then at least. If convicted, he could face a life term in jail.

During the trial, the Chhattisgarh government contested a plea from Dr Sen, who suffers from recurrent chest pain, to be transferred to a hospital outside Raipur. The court will continue hearing his petition to be moved to a hospital of his choice on 2 May.

Amnesty International has called on the Indian authorities to ensure Dr. Sen has access to medical treatment of his choice while he remains in custody.

Dr. Sen was detained without proper charges for seven months, denied bail, and kept in solitary confinement for three weeks. Many of the charges against him stem from laws that contravene international standards. Repeated delays in the conduct of his trial have also heightened doubts about its fairness.