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Re-arrest of Sharmila a mockery: Amnesty

By Sobhapati Samom

IMPHAL, Jan 25 � Amnesty International India has condemned the re-arrest of �prisoner of conscience� Irom Sharmila on Saturday. The police arrested Sharmila on the charge of attempting to commit suicide a day after a Manipur Court rejected an identical charge and ordered her release.

�This re-arrest makes a mockery of the Indian criminal justice process. In the last five months Irom Sharmila has been released and re-arrested twice in what has now become an absurd ritual,� said Shemeer Babu, Programmes Director, Amnesty International India.

On August 19 last year, another Manipur Court had ordered Irom Sharmila to be released, stating that her hunger strike was a �political demand through a lawful means�. But she was again re-arrested three days later on an attempted suicide charge.

�This is an extraordinary situation where a peaceful protestor is being denied her constitutional right to freedom of expression. A hunger strike is not attempted suicide, and it is baffling why authorities repeatedly bring the same charge against Irom Sharmila that courts have thrown out,� said Shemeer Babu.

Condemning the re-arrest of Sharmila by Manipur Police after picking her from Shamuakhong in Imphal, Manipur-based Just Peace Foundation (JPF), Human Rights Alert (HRA), Indigenous Perspective (IP) functionaries alleged, �This is nothing but criminalisation of Sharmila by the government.�

They also asked the government to repeal AFSPA to save Sharmila instead of arrest or re-arrest. The government has no right to interfere in Sharmila�s agitation.

Sharmila has been on a prolonged hunger strike for more than 14 years, demanding the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). She was arrested shortly after she began her hunger strike on November 2, 2000, and charged with attempting to commit suicide � a criminal offence under Indian law. In March 2013, a Delhi Court also charged Sharmila with attempting to commit suicide in October 2006, when she staged a protest in Delhi for two days.

Last month, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs informed that the Centre had decided to repeal Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which makes attempting to commit suicide punishable with imprisonment for up to one year.

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