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India climate activist linked to Greta Thunberg gets bail

India climate activist linked to Greta Thunberg gets bail

dpa
New Delhi
A Delhi court on Tuesday granted bail to a young climate activist who was arrested in connection with campaign material for the ongoing farmers’ protests.
Disha Ravi, 22, was arrested in Bengaluru on February 13 for her alleged involvement in creating an online protest toolkit, which was later shared online by prominent Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Delhi police claimed the toolkit is linked to Sikh extremist organizations and part of a conspiracy to incite violence and defame India.
Ravi, associated with Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement, has been charged with sedition, punishable with a fine or a prison term between three months and a life sentence. Ravi’s lawyer denied the charges and said she had no links with Sikh extremist movements.
Judge Dharmendra Singh Rana granted her bail, conditional on the payment of two sureties of 100,000 rupees ($1,379) each.
“Considering the scanty and sketchy evidence on record, I do not find any palpable reason to breach the rule of bail for a 22-year-old girl who has absolutely no criminal antecedent,” Rana said in his order, according to broadcaster NDTV.
The judge rejected Delhi Police claims that Ravi’s sharing of the toolkit with Thunberg amounted to conspiring against the country, the report said.
“A citizen has the fundamental rights to use the best means of imparting and receiving communication, as long as (it) is permissible... to have access to audiences abroad,” he noted.
The judge also dismissed arguments that the activist had conspired with separatist outfits, questioning the Delhi police if it had any evidence against the activist, adding “it cannot be presumed by resorting to surmises or conjectures that she also supported secessionist tendencies,” he added.
During the hearing, the Delhi Police, opposing grant of bail, had maintained the toolkit was a gateway to anti-India websites and Ravi was in touch with extremist groups. It said Ravi could tamper evidence were she to be released.
Premier Narendra Modi’s government has been facing the most serious challenge to its authority yet with mass demonstrations staged by farmers outside the national capital to protest a set of new agricultural laws. Many of these farmers are Sikhs from the state of Punjab.
Police said preliminary investigations revealed that the toolkit was linked to violence among a section of protestors in Delhi on January 26.
But Ravi’s arrest has also raised concerns over the government’s crackdown on dissent.
“Freedom of speech and right to peaceful protest and assembly are non-negotiatble human rights. These must be a fundamental part of any democracy #StandWithDishaRavi,” Thunberg earlier wrote on Twitter.
Besides activists, opposition politicians like Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal have slammed Ravi’s arrest. “Supporting our farmers is not a crime,” Kejriwal said, terming the arrest as an “unprecedented attack on democracy.”

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