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News Jailed Indian Jesuit pens letter on prisoners’ plight

Jailed Indian Jesuit pens letter on prisoners’ plight

An image of Father Stan Swany on a sipper-cup and badges that rights groups issued as part of their campaign demanding the release of the Jesuit priest and 15 other activists accused of terror links. (Photo: UCA News)

Detained elderly Indian Jesuit Stan Swamy has marked his 100 days in prison with a letter highlighting the cases of poor people languishing in jail who begin their trials without even knowing their criminal charges.

In his letter to Jesuit colleagues, the 84-year-old priest also expressed gratitude for the “overwhelming” solidarity of his supporters as he completed 100 days in prison on Jan. 15.

Father Swamy has been detained in Taloja Central Prison in Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra state, since Oct. 9. The human rights activist priest is charged with sedition and having links with outlawed Maoist rebels.

Along with Father Swamy, 15 other activists were arrested and jailed at different times for their alleged involvement in a violent incident in Bhima Koregaon on Jan. 1, 2018, in which one person died and five were injured.

As he completed 100 days in jail, rights groups across India organized peaceful candlelight marches, processions and webinars to mark his and other activists’ incarceration.

“First of all, I deeply appreciate the overwhelming solidarity expressed by many during these past 100 days behind bars,” the priest’s letter said.

“At times, news of such solidarity has given me immense strength and courage, especially when the only thing certain in prison is uncertainty. Life here is on a day-to-day basis.”

Without speaking much about himself, Father Swamy’s letter referred to the “undertrials” — a term used in India to denote people in custody waiting for their trials to begin.

“Many such poor undertrials don’t know what charges have been put on them, have not seen their charge sheet and just remain in prison for years without any legal or other assistance,” he wrote.

The undertrials are his strength in prison, the priest said.

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