Amnesty International urges Kerala govt to release two human rights activists
Amnesty International India on Friday urged the Kerala Government to release two human rights activists arrested by police in connection with the “Maoist hunt.”
Kerala police had arrested Jaison C Cooper and Thushar Nirmal Sarathy from two different locations in the state on January 30 alleging they were involved in the recent suspected Maoist attacks offices in Kochi.
Police had recovered Maoist literature from their premises and Sarthy, as an advocate, was giving legal aid to two youths earlier arrested in suspected Maoist attacks. Cooper, a state government employee, was picked up from his office in connection with the attack on the project office of the National Highway Authority of India in Kochi.
Sarathy was nabbed from Kozhikode when he was coming out of a press conference held to deplore the persecution of human rights activists under the guise of crack down on Maoists. They were charged with provisions under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Shameer Babu, programmes director, Amnesty International India, said, “Indian courts have stated on multiple occasions that mere possession of certain literature cannot be considered a crime. The National Human Rights Commission has asked for a report from the Kerala police on the arrests. Authorities must ensure that the two men are protected from torture and other ill-treatment.”
He said the investigating officer admitted that the only existing evidence against the arrested men was pamphlets and materials ‘supporting Maoist groups’ found in their homes. The police also said that they had found in Sarathy’s house a document signed by a Maoist leader giving him power of attorney.
Sarathy’s wife believes that her husband was arrested because he is an active member of several groups protesting against land acquisition by the state government. Cooper has also been actively engaged in protests against land acquisitions and forced evictions.
In recent weeks, the Kerala police have detained several people across the state on suspicion of being supporters of banned Maoist armed groups. Some have been subsequently released.
“Human rights activists in Kerala must be able carry out their work without intimidation or harassment and authorities must take prompt action against those who violate their rights,” said Shemeer Babu.
In April 2011, the Supreme Court observed while granting bail to Binayak Sen – an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience – that “the mere possession of Naxalite literature does not make a person a Naxalite”.
Source:: Indian Express