“Killers won’t go unpunished…”: Friends of Stan Swamy vow to secure justice for late priest

Photo courtesy to Neeta Kolhatkar

Human rights activists, academicians and lawyers on Thursday gathered to call for the release of the jailed human rights defenders in the Elgar Parishad case. They demanded an impartial probe into the allegations of tampering of electronic devices and fabrication of evidence of all those jailed under draconian UAPA.

The gathering at the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh comes days after a US-based digital forensics report found that incriminating evidence was ‘planted’ on the laptop of activist Stan Swamy, who was named an accused in the Elgar Parishad case and who died last year in prison.

Fr Joe Xavier, convenor of the Fr Stan Swamy Legacy Committee of the Jesuits; Fr Frazer Mascarenhas, former principal of St Xavier’s college; senior advocate Mihir Desai, who represented Fr Swamy; and Professor Nagarjuna G, formerly associated with the Homi Bhabha Center for Science Education, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research joined the meeting.

“Arsenal has found no digital evidence to indicate that there was any interaction between the owner of the computer and the documents that were planted on the hard disk. Further, the 45 documents seized by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as evidence were created in such a short period of time that it was not possible for any human being to do it,” Hindustan Times quoted Nagarjuna as saying.

The NIA’s attitude towards the findings of the report was itself suspicious, said Senior advocate Mihir Desai.

“Firstly, if the prosecuting agency is relying solely on computer-based evidence, they have to be sure it will work, and they can’t be so confident unless they know that it is planted. More importantly, if the charge against all the arrested accused was that they were a threat to state security, how is this not a bigger threat? Are you not curious to know how documents can be planted remotely on a computer? Are you not concerned that this could happen to the prime minister or the home minister tomorrow?” he asked.

The forensics report by Arsenal Consulting said, “Swamy was the target of an extensive malware campaign for nearly five years, the longest known for any defendant, right up until his device was seized by police in June 2019.”

Desai said that after the two Arsenal reports came, they wrote to the NIA and asked them to investigate. “For one and a half years, the investigation has been suppressed.”

“Stan said that there were people living worse lives than him and he did not deserve limelight over something like this,” Fr Xavier recalled.

Father Stan Swamy’s friends said that the moment the state decided to arrest Father Swamy, his death warrant was signed. “We were fully aware of it,” Mihir Desai said.

They said that they are not going to let Father Stan’s “killers go unpunished,” reported Mid Day.

The legal team has filed a petition and we are contemplating on the future course of action, Desai said.

The Jesuits have approached the Mumbai High Court seeking to clear Father Swamy from the false cases registered against him and restore his reputation.

The petition was filed by Father Mascarenhas, through Desai, as Father Swamy’s “next of kin.” He has also sought that the court monitors the judicial inquiry into the elderly priest’s custodial death.