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REUTERS
October 22, 2020

Indian Opp, UN call for freeing octogenarian priest held on terror charges

National

REUTERS
October 22, 2020

NEW DELHI: Indian opposition leaders Wednesday called for the release of an elderly priest held on terror charges, one of 16 similar arrests rights groups say are politically-motivated.

Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Jesuit priest working with tribal groups in Jharkhand, was arrested earlier this month on accusations he assisted Maoist groups active in the region.

He was refused bail and is being held under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), that critics say is one of several laws being abused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

“The charges seem to be preposterous,” said Shashi Tharoor, a lawmaker from the opposition Congress, that was one of half-a-dozen parties to speak at a news conference Wednesday.

“He should be released on bail even if the government insists on these far-fetched charges,” he added.

Sonia Narang, a spokeswoman for India’s federal National Investigation Authority that is in charge of the case, did not respond to a request for comment.

The United Nations and several rights groups have said the detentions are part of a pattern of the government using India’s laws to crack down on dissent, although New Delhi denies this.