An elderly priest and human rights activist, accused of terrorism, has been denied bail by a court in Mumbai.
83-year-old Jesuit priest Fr Stan Swamy has been held at the Taloja Central prison since 9th October. He stands accused of terrorism under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), in connection with incitement, which resulted in the Bhima Koregaon violence in 2018.
On 22nd March, the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Mumbai refused to grant him bail.
Persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) believes Fr Stan has been targeted because of his human rights activism. The 83-year-old has spent more than 30 years working among the Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) to defend their rights.
Fr Stan's defense counsel, Sharif Sheikh, argued that the NIA had failed to produce any evidence of an act of terrorism committed by the priest. An application for bail was filed on health grounds and argued that the NIA charges against the Jesuit priest were false, as reported by CSW.
His bail application noted that "[Fr Stan] has undergone two hernia operations and is still suffering from abdomen pain. He suffers intense pain due to lumbar spondylosis. In fact, he has been shifted to the prison hospital and is being taken care of by other inmates."
Fr Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest and a human rights activist in India, told CSW: "The sad and painful fact that the bail application has once again been rejected by the special NIA court today speaks volumes of the heartlessness that still abounds in a highly unjust legal system. Father Swamy has worked relentlessly with the constitutional and democratic framework of the country. Besides his age, he also suffers from infirmities like Parkinson's. That a person of his condition and with absolutely no evidence that he has indulged in any anti-national activity is once again denied bail should make every concerned citizen of the country hang one's head in shame."
CSW's founder and president Mervyn Thomas said in a statement: "We are frustrated to hear that Father Swamy's bail application has been denied. From the start, this elderly activist has faced inhumane treatment, and the sad fact is that he joins many other human rights defenders who have also been incarcerated for exercising their fundamental rights and defending those of others. We are deeply concerned by the shrinking space for civil liberties and freedoms in India, which reflects badly on the democratic principles laid down by the nation's founding fathers. We urge the Indian government to uphold rule of law and by dropping all charges against Father Swamy and ending the prosecution of human rights defenders in the country."