Page last updated at 08:43 GMT, Monday, 25 May 2009 09:43 UK

India rights activist to be freed

ndia's Supreme Court has ordered the release on bail of a leading public health specialist and human-rights activist, Dr Binayak Sen.

Dr Sen has been in jail for two years. He is accused of links with Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh state, where the rebels have a strong presence.

Dr Sen denies the charge. Last year, he said in court that he did not support the Maoists.

International rights groups have been campaigning for Dr Sen's release.

'Real grievances'

Dr Sen, a trained paediatrician, was working with poor tribal people in Chhattisgarh, when he was detained in 2007.

He was also a senior member of the local unit of a leading Indian human rights group, the People's Union for Civil Liberties.

He ran a weekly clinic for the local tribals and was piloting a community-based health programme.

Binayak Sen (Photo: Global Health Council)
Binayak Sen has been in jail for nearly a year (Photo: Global Health Council)

During a court appearance last year, Dr Sen said he did not support the Maoists.

At the same time, he has maintained the Maoists have tapped into legitimate grievances.

The Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of landless farmers and tribes.

Last year, human-rights groups, intellectuals and more than 2,000 doctors worldwide signed petitions demanding Dr Sen's release.

Among them was prominent American writer Noam Chomsky.

Dr Sen was also awarded the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights for his services to poor and tribal communities and his unwavering commitment to civil liberties and human rights.

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

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

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

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