Amnesty International India is concerned that journalist Prashant Rahi, held in Aheri police station, Maharashtra, is at imminent risk of torture in police custody. Amnesty International India calls on Maharashtra authorities to ensure he is protected from torture and any form of ill-treatment.
Fifty-two-year-old Prashant Rahi, also known as Prashant Sanglikar, a freelance journalist and activist from the state of Uttarakhand was arrested on 1 September 2013. He has been actively working to secure legal aid for people arrested on suspicion of having links with the Communist Party of India – Maoist (CPI Maoist).
Prashant Rahi is being held under India’s principal anti-terror legislation, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), for allegedly being involved in unlawful activities, being a member of and supporting a terrorist organization. The police also suspect Prashant Rahi of involvement in criminal conspiracy. A local court has remanded him in police custody until 16 September 2013.
Amnesty International India is concerned that parts of the UAPA do not meet international human rights standards and are likely to lead to human rights violations. Amendments to the Act in 2008 extended the minimum period of detention of suspects from 15 to 30 days and the maximum period of such detention from 90 to 180 days. These amendments also avoided adequate pre-trial safeguards against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees. The amendments also reversed certain evidential burdens of grave crimes and required, in certain circumstances, the accused persons to prove their innocence.
Amnesty International India and other human rights groups in India have highlighted several instances where the UAPA has been abused, with the use of fabricated evidence and false charges to detain activists defending the rights of Adivasi and Dalit communities and peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. Since 2005, a number of socio-political activists and human rights defenders around central India have faced false charges and imprisonment for highlighting the human rights situation in the region. Among such cases are those of Binayak Sen, Sono Sori and Lingaram Kodopi.
The Maharashtra police stated that they arrested Prashant Rahi in Gondia, Maharashtra while he was heading to meet a senior member of the CPI (Maoist). However, Prashant Rahi’s family say that he was arrested in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, while on his way to meet a lawyer.
Prashant Rahi had also been arrested in 2007 in Uttarakhand on similar charges, and allegedly tortured in detention by police officers. He was released on bail in 2011 after three years in prison. The allegations of torture during that detention have not been investigated. A trial court in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand that is hearing the 2007 case is expected to deliver its judgement later this month.
Amnesty International India is calling on authorities investigate the alleged torture of Prashant Rahi in police custody in 2007, and prosecute suspects, including those with command responsibility, in fair trials.
Amnesty International India also urges the authorities to ensure Prashant Rahi is protected from torture following his arrest on 1 September 2013, and to ensure that he is given a fair trial .