RAIPUR, India (Reuters) - An Indian court sentenced a doctor accused of links with Maoist rebels to life in prison on Friday, a high-profile case involving appeals by Nobel laureates for the world’s biggest democracy to uphold human rights.
Binayak Sen, 60, was arrested in 2007 in Raipur, capital of the central Chhattisgarh state on accusations he passed on notes from an imprisoned Maoist leader he was treating. Sen denies any wrongdoing.
Chhattisgarh is one of the centers of a Maoist insurgency that stretches across a swathe of eastern and central India.
“Binayak Sen along with (two others) have been convicted for sedition and conspiracy against the state, among other charges,” public prosecutor T.C. Pandya told reporters.
All three accused were sentenced to life in prison. They can appeal the verdict in a higher court. Sen had been granted bail by the Supreme Court last year.
Sen won international fame for running health clinics for villagers in tribal regions. He has also been critical of government-backed tribal militia that were formed to battle the Maoist insurgents.
In 2008, the Global Health Council, an association of health organizations and workers, made Sen the winner of the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights.
After that, 22 Nobel prize-winning scientists appealed to the Indian government to release him and let him travel to the United States to collect the award.
The Nobel laureates said the laws under which Sen had been jailed fell short of international human rights standards.
“I fully disagree with the court decision,” Illina Sen, the doctor’s wife, told reporters. “There was no evidence against him, we will go to the high court.”
Maoist rebels say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless. They regularly kill policemen and attack government establishments.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the four-decade-old Maoist rebellion as the biggest threat to India’s internal security. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.
Writing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Robert Birsel