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Nobel laureates ask India to free doctor PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 14 May 2008

REUTERS, RAIPUR, India - Twenty-two Nobel laureates have appealed to the Indian government to release Binayak Sen, a jailed doctor and human rights activist accused of links with Maoist rebels.

Sen, 58, was jailed a year ago in Raipur, capital of Chhattisgarh, on accusations that he passed notes from an imprisoned Maoist leader. He is still awaiting trial.

Chhattisgarh is one of the centres of a Maoist insurgency that stretches across a swathe of eastern and central India.

Sen, who has won international fame for running health clinics for poor villagers in this tribal region, denies the accusations. He has also been critical of government-backed tribal militia that were formed to battle Maoist insurgents.

In April, the Global Health Council, an association of health organisations and workers, announced he was the winner of the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights.

The Nobel prize-winning scientists say he has been imprisoned unfairly and want him to be free to travel to Washington D.C. to collect the award later this month.

"We also wish to express grave concern that Dr. Sen appears to be incarcerated solely for peacefully exercising his fundamental human rights," they said in a May 9 letter addressed to the Indian president, the prime minister and other leaders.

The Nobel laureates range from Kenneth J. Arrow, who won the prize of economics in 1972 to Craig C. Mello, who won the prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2006.

They said the laws under which Sen had been jailed fell short of international human rights standards.

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 single biggest threat to India's internal security. It has killed thousands of people.

The Nobel laureates span around three decades of winners, including economists, chemists and doctors.
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