Renowned Indian physician and human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen has been sentenced to life in prison on charges of sedition and conspiracy. Described as Indian’s most famous political prisoner, Dr. Sen is known as the “physician of the poor.” We play an interview with Dr. Sen, speaking while out on bail earlier this year, and we talk to his wife, Ilina Sen. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: The renowned Indian physician and human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen has been sentenced to life in prison. On Friday, Dr. Sen and two others were convicted in court in India on charges of sedition and conspiracy.
Described as India’s most famous political prisoner, Dr. Sen is known as the “physician of the poor.” He spent many years working as a doctor in the rural-tribal areas of Chhattisgarh in central India and reported on unlawful killings of indigenous people by the police and private militias. The region is the site of intensifying conflict between India’s central government and the Maoist Naxalites.
In May of 2007, Dr. Sen was charged under the the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act. The allegations against him ranged from helping the Maoist insurgency, being a member of a terrorist organization, to waging war against the Indian state.
In a statement released after his conviction, Amnesty International called Dr. Sen a “prisoner of conscience.” Asia-Pacific director Sam Zarifi said, quote, “This sentence will seriously intimidate other human rights defenders who would provide a peaceful outlet for the people’s grievances… Amnesty International believes that the charges against Dr. Sen are baseless and politically motivated,” the statement said.
Immediately after the sentencing Friday, Dr. Sen was taken back into custody. He had been free on bail since May of 2009. Earlier this year, Democracy Now!’s Anjali Kamat had a chance to speak with Dr. Sen by telephone while he was out on bail.