Anger over life term for Indian doctor
NEW DELHI: International academics on Tuesday joined civil rights groups in condemning an Indian court for sentencing a doctor to life imprisonment on charges of helping Maoist rebels.
Binayak Sen, a paediatrician and activist, was arrested in 2007 on charges of waging war against India in Chhattisgarh state-a stronghold of the country's Maoist insurgency.
During his trial, prosecutors had made the case that Sen was involved in helping Maoists create an urban network and had acted as a gobetween for a Maoist leader and a businessman.
Noam Chomsky, a renowned left-wing scholar and professor in the United States, led dozens of Indian academics in a letter criticising the court's decision on Friday.
"We are deeply shocked by the judgment of a Chhattisgarh court holding the human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen to be guilty of sedition, and sentencing him to life imprisonment," the letter said.
It said Sen had been handed a "sentence whose savagery is unbelievable".
Amnesty International said on Saturday that it considered Sen a "prisoner of conscience", adding that the doctor had been "convicted under laws that are impermissibly vague".
Sen has always maintained his innocence, and on Tuesday released a statement via Tehelka news magazine saying evidence against him had been falsified.
"I am being made an example of by the state government of Chhattisgarh as a warning to others not to expose the patent trampling of human rights taking place in the state," he said.
Before Sen's arrest, he had been running health clinics and training health workers in Chhattisgarh's tribal communities, among the poorest people in India and whose plight the Maoist rebels claim to champion.
Street rallies in New Delhi and Facebook campaigns have also been triggered by Sen's conviction, which made frontpage news in India. -Ap