Amnesty International on Saturday condemned the life sentence handed to Indian rights activist Binayak Sen over his alleged Maoist links, stating that it violates 'international fair trial standards'.
The conviction is likely to enflame tensions in the conflict-affected area, Amnesty International said in a statement.
Life in prison is an unusually harsh sentence for anyone, much less for an internationally recognized human rights defender who has never been charged with any act of violence, said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director. State and federal authorities in India should immediately drop these politically motivated charges against Dr Sen and release him.
Binayak Sen, an award winning paediatrician has been working in the forests of Chhattisgarh treating tribals for decades; his supporters now intend to approach the high court. He was convicted of sedition and conspiracy under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act, 2005, and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2004.
Dr Sen, who is considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, was convicted under laws that are impermissibly vague and fall well short of international standards for criminal prosecution, Sam Zarifi said. 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.
This sentence will seriously intimidate other human rights defenders who would provide a peaceful outlet for the people's grievances, especially for the indigenous Adivasi population, Sam Zarifi said.
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 International believes that the charges against Dr Sen are baseless and politically motivated, Amnsety said.
Sen was being held in jail before his trial, 22 Nobel laureates in a letter to New Delhi had demanded the release of the doctor, who is also a rights campaigner.
The government didn't like him because they thought he was a man who raised a voice against their wrong policies. When I met Raman Singh and told him that there is a total intelligence failure and that news that Binayak is a Naxal leader and terrorist is false. It was up to him to believe me or the police. He took his decision and we are all facing the consequences of that, '' Illina Sen, Dr. Binayak Sen's wife, is quoted as saying in Indian media reports.
Maoist insurgency in Chattisgarh has resulted in 1,000 deaths including that of 577 civilians in the first 10 months of 2010.