Press Conference / Statement by MRSD: Fabricating Evidence – Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer
In wake of the recent Arsenal report which exposes the malicious tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer, MRSD* organized a press conference on “Fabricating Evidence Against Life and Liberty: Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer and its implications for Bhima Koregaon case” on December 22, 2022.
Fr. Joe Xavier, Convenor of Fr. Stan Swamy Legacy Committee of the Jesuits and Former Executive Director of the Indian Social Institute.
Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas, Former principal of St Xavier’s College in Mumbai and the Parish Priest of St Peter’s Church.
Mihir Desai, Senior Advocate at High Court of Bombay.
Nagarjuna G., Former Professor, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
*MRSD is a forum constituted by several democratic rights, civil society and people’s organisations to campaign for the release of human rights defenders falsely charged and imprisoned in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, the repeal of UAPA and for upholding the citizens’ right to dissent.
en | 1:31 | 2022
Fabricating Evidence Against Life and Liberty: Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer and its implications for Bhima Koregaon case
The latest report released by Arsenal Consulting, a Massachusetts-based digital forensics firm- proves that Father Stan’s computer was infiltrated by hackers since October 19th 2014, and more than 40 documents were planted in it. In his last video statement before his arrest, Stan had asserted that documents shown to him by the NIA were fabricated. Inspite of the same he was arrested on 8th October 2020 and subsequently died on 5th July 2021 in custody. Stan’s case represents not just grave injustice to the 84-year-old, but also the deep denigration of basic humanity by the system.
Fr. Stan was incarcerated in the Bhima Koregaon (BK) conspiracy case which has come to represent a major conspiracy against human rights defenders in India. Including Stan, 16 activists, lawyers, academicians have been arrested since 2018 in the case filed by the Pune police (later on transferred to NIA) following caste violence that broke out against Dalit visitors on January 1, 2018, in Bhima Koregaon village near Pune. Ironically, the police invoked UAPA, a law that Stan vehemently resisted, to arrest the BK-16 activists, and brand them as anti-nationals, urban naxals and members of a banned political party and even alleged involvement in a purported assassination plan on the Prime minister. The long list of allegations in the case is meant to arouse the deepest suspicion against these 16 accused, and against their work of defending democracy and people’s struggles.
Fr. Stan worked tirelessly especially for Adivasis in Jharkhand, their rights to land, forest, and against their false incarceration. Apart from being an activist, he also documented many instances of injustices in an impeccable manner. He also raised objections to instances of illegal mining and other supposed development projects which had the impact of displacing people from their home and hearths.
Fr. Stan’s arrest in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic, despite his ill-health and age, is a proof of the system’s apathy to human rights defenders. During his last months in prison, he repeatedly requested to be shifted to his residence in Ranchi. A patient of the Parkinson’s disease, Stan faced multiple challenges during his incarceration. Inspite of having contracted Covid and taking seriously ill, he was denied timely medical treatment and care in prison. However, no cognizance of this was taken, and the situation deteriorated resulting in the death of Fr. Stan, even while his application for bail was pending. His untimely and tragic death is a result of the sheer negligence of the jail authorities, NIA and failure of the entire criminal justice system to protect a defender of justice. Such denial of rights becomes even more stark with emerging documentary proof that the evidence presented in the case were fabricated. It must be noted that in April 2021, Arsenal consulting had already released a report proving the malicious hacking and planting of documents in computers of co-accused, Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling.
The fact that Fr. Stan died before he could get a chance to prove his innocence is jarring. This case shows the extent to which illegal cyber-attacks are being used in Digital India to build false criminal cases against innocent citizens who can then be jailed indefinitely under the UAPA law. Such is the desperation of the system to incarcerate human rights defenders and dehumanize the society at large. At the same time, the real instigators of violence at Bhima Koregaon, Milind Ekbote of Samastha Hindu Aghadi and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Chhatrapati Pratishan are not being prosecuted and are instead being shielded politically.
We call for:
1. Immediate release of all remaining co-accused in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case and quashing of the case against them on the basis of fabricated evidence.
2. Reparations and justice for the wrongful incarceration of Fr. Stan Swamy that resulted in his death.
3. Impartial and independent investigation into the tampering of electronic devices and fabrication of evidence against the BK-16 accused in the case.
4. Impartial and independent investigation into the role of Milind Ekbote, Sambhaji Bhide and other right-wing leaders and outfits for planning and inciting violence on Dalits in Bhima Koregaon and their prosecution in the FIRs filed against them.
5. Repeal of draconian UAPA law used as a tool to curb dissent and political opposition.
*Mumbai Rises to Save Democracy: MRSD is a forum constituted by more than 20 democratic rights, civil society and people’s organisations to campaign for the release of those arrested in the Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case, repeal of UAPA and for upholding the citizens’ right to dissent.
● Hackers Planted Files to Frame an Indian Priest Who Died in Custody (Wired / Dec 13, 2022)