South Asia

Indian activist Binayak Sen released from prison

Binayak Sen after he was freed from prison on 18 April 2011
Image caption Rights groups in India and abroad had called on the government to free Mr Sen

Indian public health expert and human rights activist Dr Binayak Sen has been freed, after the Supreme Court granted him bail last week.

Dr Sen was released from a prison in the central state of Chhattisgarh on the condition that he would surrender his passport and attend court whenever he was summoned.

In December a court in Chhattisgarh sentenced him to life in prison for helping Maoist rebels.

Mr Sen has denied the charges.

The lower court in Chhattisgarh had found him guilty of carrying messages and setting up bank accounts for the rebels, who are active in large parts of India.

Last week, the Supreme Court gave no reason for granting bail to Dr Sen, saying that Mr Sen "may be a sympathiser [of Maoists] but it did not make him guilty of sedition".

Mr Sen's family greeted him outside the prison in Raipur when he was released on Monday evening.

"I know in my heart that I never betrayed the people of this country," he said after his release.

Dr Sen told reporters that there were "hundreds of prisoners fighting charges of sedition in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere in the country".

Rights groups in India and abroad, along with 40 Nobel laureates, had called on the government to free him.

Outspoken

Dr Sen was first arrested in Bilaspur town in May 2007 for alleged links with the Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal, whom he used to visit in jail.

India's Supreme Court ordered his release on bail two years later. He was re-arrested after his conviction in December.

Dr Sen, a trained paediatrician, says he does not support the Maoists.

A senior member of the local unit of a leading Indian human rights group, the People's Union for Civil Liberties, he worked with tribal people in Chhattisgarh.

Dr Sen was also awarded the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights for his services to poor and tribal communities.

His efforts in public health programmes helped to bring down the infant mortality rate in the state as well as reduce deaths caused by diarrhoea and dehydration, local doctors say.

Dr Sen has been outspoken about the ways in which the government is trying to tackle the Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh by backing a controversial civil militia of local tribals called Salwa Judum.

He has also expressed concern over rising inequality in India despite the economic boom.

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