CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 09:30 am
A Jesuit priest arrested in India on charges of sedition will remain in jail for at least another two weeks, after the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences has called for his release, along with other international organizations.
Fr. Stan Swamy, S.J., was arrested Oct. 8 by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), India’s counter-terrorism task force. The 83-year-old priest is accused of being involved with a Maoist group, and inciting violence in the town of Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, 2018. One person was killed and others injured during mob violence that day.
Swamy denies all charges and says that he has never even been to Bhima-Koregaon. The priest is the co-founder of the Persecuted Prisoners Solidarity Committee, an organization that assists those who are being held in prison but have not been yet been convicted of a crime, and are still undergoing a trial. It is estimated that 70% of India’s prison population is in this category.
On Oct. 26, the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) issued a statement in support of Swany, and calling for his release.
“It is with great shock and agony the FABC heard of the arrest of the 84-year-old Father Swamy and his incarceration and we are surprised at the charges brought against him,” Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Burma, the president of the FABC, said in a statement on October 26.
“The arrest and cold-hearted incarceration of Father Swamy reminds us of the treatment meted out to Mahatma Gandhi when he stood up for the rights of the Indian people,” said Bo.
In a video posted to social media prior to his arrest, Swamy described being interrogated for 15 hours by the NIA. He said that because of his history of activism, the state “wanted to put me out of the way, and one easy way [to do that] was to implicate me in some serious cases.”
Swamy said he was “raided twice” by authorities who “put before me certain extracts, supposedly taken from my computer, extracts which showed Maoists were communicating with each other, and in some extracts even my name was mentioned,” he said. Swamy said that authorities were unable to tell him who sent the emails, who received the emails, on which date the emails were sent, and if there was any sort of signature on the emails.