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22 Nobel Winners call for release of Dr Binayak Sen

Nobel Winners call for release of Dr Binayak Sen
Global protests on first anniversary of arrest
Free Binayak Sen Campaign

12 May 2008

In an unprecedented move twenty-two Nobel Prize winning scientists and
economists have appealed to the Indian government to release the jailed
paediatrician and humanitarian activist Dr Binayak Sen enabling him to
go and receive the 2008 Jonathan Mann Award for Health and Human Rights
in Washington later this month.

Dr Sen, who is the first south Asian to be selected for the prestigious
award, was arrested under the Chattisgarh State Public Security Act last
year on false charges of ‘supporting’ unlawful activities of an armed
underground movement. There is no evidence to prove these charges
however and it is widely believed that Dr Sen is being victimised for
his human rights work and exposure of violations carried out by police
and the state-sponsored militia called Salwa Judum in Chattisgarh.

“While the judicial process involving our professional colleague moves
forward, we respectfully request that Dr. Sen be freed from
incarceration on humanitarian grounds to receive his award and to
continue his important medical work” says the letter from the Nobel
Prize winners, dated 9 May and addressed to a host of top Indian
officials including Smt. Pratibha Patil, President of India, Dr Manmohan
Singh, Prime Minister and Dr Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chattisgarh.

Signatories to the letter include 9 Nobel Laureates in Physiology or
Medicine, 9 in Chemistry, 2 in Physics and 2 in Economics. These
luminaries are John Polanyi (Chemistry 1986), Francois Jacob (Medicine
1965), Roger Guillemin (Medicine 1977), Charles Townes (Physics 1964),
John Polanyi (Chemistry 1986) Peter Agre (Chemistry 2003,) Claude
Cohen-Tannoudji (Physics 1997), Robert Curl (Chemistry1996), Johann
Diesenhofer (Chemistry 1988), Paul Greengard (Physiology or Medicine
2000), Eric Kandel (Physiology or Medicine 2000), Sir Harald Kroto
(Chemistry 1996), Yuan T. Lee (Chemistry 1986), Craig C. Mello(
Physiology or Mediicne 2006), F. Sherwood Rwoland (Chemistry 1995), Jens
C. Skou (Chemistry 1997), PHILLIP A. SHARP (Physiology or Medicine 1993,
HAROLD VARMUS (Physiology or Medicine 1989), SIR JOHN E. WALKER
(Chemistry 1997), TORSTEN WIESEL (Physiology or Medicine 1981) and the
world-renowned economists Kenneth J. Arrow (Economics 1972) Finn Kydland
(Economics 2004).

The Nobel Prize winners statement also raises concerns that Dr. Sen
appears to be incarcerated solely for peacefully exercising his
fundamental human rights, in contravention of Articles 19 (freedom of
opinion and expression) and 22 (freedom of association) of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights—to which India is a
state party. Further it says “…he is charged under two internal security
laws that do not comport with international human rights standards.”

This is not the first time that prominent intellectuals from around the
world have appealed for the release of Dr Binayak Sen, an outstanding
humanitarian physician who has spent over three decades in the service
of rural and tribal communities in Chattisgarh. In a statement last
month Dr. Nils Dulaire, President of the Global Health Council, which
selected Dr Sen for the Jonathan Mann Award said “We believe, however,
that allowing Dr. Sen to attend the award’s ceremony would send a strong
signal internationally that would help to restore faith that India and
its states are indeed committed to fairly addressing this and other
cases related to civil conflicts and civil liberties”

However the coming together of twenty-two Nobel Prize winners in support
of a political prisoner in India is unprecedented and speaks volumes of
the admiration evoked by Dr Sen among his global peers.

“It provides clear evidence of the level of concern that Binayak’s case
has engendered around the world,” said Dr Ilina Sen, wife of Dr Binayak
Sen, herself a well-known scholar and rights activist.

In the meanwhile on 14 May, 2008, the first anniversary of Dr Sen’s
arrest, hundreds of people across the globe are planning to stage
demonstrations, hold vigils and organise public meetings demanding his
immediate release.

Apart from cities like New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Mumbai
in India protests are also planned in ten North American and three
European cities including New York, Toronto, London, Paris and
Stockholm. Most of these protests, organised by members of the Indian
diaspora along with global activist groups, will be staged outside
Indian embassies and consulates in these cities.

All told, the international attention proves, as was noted in the Global
Health Council’s statement of support, that the “world is watching” to
see whether India will maintain its proud democratic tradition.

Download Nobel Winners Statement:

For further information contact:

* Satya Sivaraman, New Delhi Ph: +91–9818514952
* Dr P.Zachariah, Vellore Ph: +91-9442607116
* Dr Rakhal, Chennai Ph: +91- 9940246089
* Dr Punyabrata Gun, Kolkata Ph: +91-9830922194
* Dr Abhay Shukla, Pune Ph: +91-9422317515
* Somu Kumar, US
* Shalini Gera, US
* Kalpana Wilson, London