India’s Supreme Court today granted bail to Dr Binayak Sen, a human rights defender who has spent 100 days in prison as part of a politically motivated life sentence on sedition and conspiracy charges.
The 61-year-old prisoner of conscience has been in Raipur prison in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh since 24 December after a district court convicted him of collaborating with armed Maoists who are part a banned organization.
“The decision to grant bail to Dr Binayak Sen is hugely positive,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Director. “Dr Sen is an internationally recognized human rights defender who has never been charged with any act of violence and the decision to release him is welcome."
"However, we hope the courts will overturn the sentence still hanging over Dr Sen. We maintain that the charges against him are baseless and politically motivated."
Dr Sen is likely to be released on Monday pending the arrival of the detailed court order confirming the Supreme Court's decision, according to his wife Ilina Sen.
Ilina Sen also thanked Amnesty International and other human rights organizations that have sustained the campaign for his release.
Dr Sen earlier spent two years in Raipur prison before the Supreme Court intervened and released him on bail in May 2009, after which he was convicted and rearrested. He has challenged his conviction in the Chhattisgarh high court.
Amnesty International believes that Dr Sen was convicted under laws that are impermissibly vague, falling well short of international standards for criminal prosecution.
Dr Sen is a pioneer of health care for marginalized and adivasi (indigenous) communities in central India, where the security forces and armed Maoists have been engaged in clashes over the last six years.
He has also been instrumental in highlighting human rights violations in the area.