India's leading civil rights activist found guilty of sedition, gets life imprisonment

( December 24, Raipur, Sri Lanka Guardian) Civil rights activist Binayak Sen, Naxal ideologue Narayan Sanyal and Kolkata businessman Piyush Guha were on Friday found guilty of sedition by a Raipur court for helping the Maoists in their fight against the state. They have been sentenced to life imprisonment by the court.

Additional District and Sessions Judge B P Verma held the trio guilty under provisions of section 124 IPC (sedition), 120 B IPC (conspiracy) and Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.

Binayak Sen was present in the court along with Sanyal and Guha as the judge delivered the verdict.

58-year-old Sen, a paediatrician by training, had been accused by the prosecution of carrying messages and letters from Sanyal to the underground Maoists. Guha was also found involved in helping the Maoists establish a network.

The Chhattisgarh police had claimed that Sen was helping Naxals establish a network in urban areas.

Binayak, a PUCL activist, was arrested on May 14, 2007 from Bilaspur and was in jail for two years before being granted bail by the Supreme Court in May last year.

Sanyal, 67, was arrested in Khammam in Andhra Pradesh in January 2006, while Guha, 35, was nabbed a year later in May. Both have been in jail with the prosecution having charged them with helping Maoists to set up a network.

Mahendra Dubey, Sen's lawyer, said they will appeal against the verdict. "This kind of judgement was not expected by us," he said.

All the three were sentenced to life imprisonment under sections 124A and 120(B) of IPC. The three were also found guilty under Section 8(1) of Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and awarded two years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000.

They were sentenced to one year imprisonment and Rs 1000 fine under section 8(2) of the state Act, to three years prison term and a fine of Rs 1000 under section 8(3) of that Act and to five years imprisonment and fine of Rs 1000 under its Section 8(5), Dubey said.

All the three were also found guilty under provisions of Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act and sentenced up to five years jail term and a fine of Rs 1,000 each. Sanyal was also awarded 10 years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2,000 under Section 20 of the Act.

The sentences will run concurrently, Dubey said.

Sen, who was freed on bail last year, has always maintained his innocence. "I have never condoned Maoist violence. It is an invalid and unsustainable movement," Dr Sen had said after his arrest in 2007.

The verdict has evoked strong reactions from activists as well as Dr Sen's family. His wife Elina Sen said that she was sad for the "state of Indian democracy".

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