Court grants bail to Indian climate activist accused of sedition

New Delhi, Feb 23 (EFE).- A court in New Delhi on Tuesday granted bail to Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old climate activist who was arrested on sedition charges over an online document backing protesting farmers in India.

The Sessions Court said there was no reason to deny bail to Ravi “considering the scanty and sketchy evidence available on record” against her.

“I do not find any palpable reasons to breach the general rule of bail against a 22-year-old young lady with absolutely blemish free criminal antecedents and having firm roots in the society,” the judge said.

The judge granted the bail to the activist, arrested by the Delhi Police on Feb.13 from her home in the southern city of Bengaluru, subject to two sureties of Rs.100,000 (nearly $1,400) each.

Ravi, a member of the climate movement “Fridays for Future” started by Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, was detained for questioning over her alleged involvement in an online campaign toolkit for farmers protesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agricultural reforms.

The Swedish climate activist had promoted the campaign guide in support of the months-long protests on the borders of Delhi that have now spread to other parts of the country.

Police accused Ravi of participating in the creation of the viral online document that included news and instructions for supporting the protests on social media.

Police alleged that the document aimed to provoke discontent against the Indian state, and create disinformation and disaffection against the lawfully elected government.

Police also alleged that Ravi and two other co-accused in the case, Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk, had affiliations with an alleged Sikh separatist organization in Canada, the Poetic Justice Foundation.

It is an advocacy group that often raises questions about alleged human rights violations.

The judge said he was conscious that it was difficult to collect evidence for the offense of conspiracy.

“I am equally conscious that what is difficult to prove for the prosecution in the affirmative is virtually impossible for the defense to prove in the negative,” he said in sanctioning the bail for the activist.

Ravi’s arrest had sparked widespread condemnation across the country.

Prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan, in a joint statement signed by scores of other personalities, including writer Arundhati Roy, denounced the charges against Ravi as “absurd to say the least” and “an attempt to criminalize dissent and protest.”

The nonprofit Human Rights Watch’s South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said the “Indian authorities really should end these arbitrary actions targeting peaceful dissent.”

Thousands of farmers have been camping near the Delhi borders since the end of November, as part of a wave of demonstrations against the government’s agricultural reforms.

Although mostly peaceful, on the occasion of India’s Republic Day on Jan. 26, a protest march around the capital resulted in clashes that left one farmer dead and hundreds wounded, most of them policemen.

Ravi’s case is the latest in a series of arrests of activists that are critical of the government in the South Asian country. EFE


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