Disabled Indian professor sentenced to life for 'Maoist links'

Sai Baba
Image caption Professor GN Saibaba is a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair

A court in western India has handed life prison sentences to a disabled academic and four other people for having links to Maoist rebels waging an insurgency against the state.

Professor GN Saibaba of Delhi University, who is paralysed from the waist down, was arrested three years ago but was released on bail.

Maoist rebels say they are fighting for communist rule and rights for tribal people and rural poor.

His family plans to appeal the verdict.

A local court in Maharashtra state found Prof Saibaba and four others guilty of "criminal conspiracy and waging war against the nation" on Tuesday.

In his verdict the judge said of him, "though he is physically handicapped, he is mentally fit", adding that "the imprisonment for life is not a sufficient punishment to the accused".

Prof Saibaba had travelled to tribal areas and prominently campaigned against the activities of the Indian military and a pro-government, anti-Maoist militia.

He was first arrested in 2014 and accused of being a member of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), but denied any involvement with the outfit.

"This judgment is a clear way of state impression and violation of human rights. It looks like the state is using the judgement as a landmark to silence those voices who speak against them," AS Vasantha Kumari, Saibaba's wife told Hindustan Times newspaper.

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