Jailed Indian doctor Binayak Sen released on bail

Published on Google.com, by Prakash Hota/AFP, April 18, 2011.

RAIPUR, India — An Indian doctor jailed for life for allegedly helping Maoist rebels whose conviction led to an international campaign to free him walked out of prison on Monday after he was granted bail.

Human rights activist Binayak Sen was greeted by emotional family members as he left the high security Raipur Central Jail in the impoverished central Indian state of Chhattisgarh late on Monday.

Immediately after appearing, he hugged both his daughters and his 80-year-old mother amid shouts of support from a jubilant crowd of hundreds of well-wishers. 

Sen spoke later to reporters, saying he was “very happy” at being released on bail and he thanked people for their massive support.

“There was a national and international campaign for me,” he said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. “I am not alone.”

Sen was arrested in 2007 on charges of waging war against India in Chhattisgarh. He was jailed in December after receiving a life sentence for sedition.

“I know in my heart that I have never betrayed our country. I am in no way a traitor,” the 61-year-old said. “There is no evidence in this matter (the alleged links with Maoists).”

Earlier in the day, a local court had asked Sen to surrender his passport and asked him not to leave the country without permission. The court also demanded 50,000 rupees ($1000) as a bond for his release.

Sen was freed on the instructions of India’s Supreme Court which ruled last week that the sentence should be suspended … //

… The case has led the country’s law minister to call for a review of India’s strict sedition laws which critics say restrict free speech.

Supporters outside the jail on Monday greeted the activist with slogans and placards, one of which said: “Free all Binayak Sens.”

India’s Maoist movement, which began in 1967, feeds off land disputes, police brutality and corruption and is strongest in the poorest and most deprived areas, many of which are rich in natural resources.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has labelled the insurgency the number one threat to India’s internal security. (full text).

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