Disha Ravi: Indian activist arrested illegally over farmers protest support, her lawyers say

Thursday 18th February 2021 13:15 GMT

Disha Ravi, an environmental activist who is part of an organisation founded by climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg, was arrested on Saturday for allegedly creating and sharing an online document that supported the months-long farmers' protests around Delhi.

She has been accused of sedition - a charge punishable by life in prison - and was brought before a New Delhi court on Sunday, without prior notice to her family or counsel, according to legal documents filed on Thursday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been widely criticised for using heavy-handed tactics to counter the demonstrations, which have seen tens of thousands of protesting farmers camped on the outskirts of Delhi since last year.

Police, who arrested Ms Ravi in Bengaluru, said the document, spread misinformation about the protests and "tarnished the image of India".

Authorities say the document, which was shared by Ms Thunburg on Twitter, was authored by Ms Ravi and two others with the backing of supporters of a separatist group.

They allege it contained plans for widening the protests and spreading violence.

Police have issued arrest warrants for two other activists, Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk, who they allege are the document's co-authors.

Ms Ravi's lawyer filed a petition to a New Delhi court on Thursday alleging she was brought before a court on Sunday without her counsel's prior knowledge.

"Surprisingly, there was significant media coverage of the petitioner's remand hearing and the media seemed to have more knowledge about the time and venue of the petitioner's production than her lawyers," it said.

The petition added the police "did not obtain any transit remand, nor did they permit the petitioner to consult with a lawyer", referring to legal permission required to move an accused from one location to another.

A Delhi police spokesman said they were waiting for instructions from the court to reply to the allegations levelled by Ms Ravi's lawyers.

Supporters have called Ms Ravi's detention "an unprecedented attack on democracy", saying it was designed to "scare away youngsters from raising their voice".

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Mostly peaceful farmer demonstrations erupted into clashes with police on 26 January, leaving one protester dead and hundreds more injured.

On Thursday afternoon, groups of farmers and their supporters sat on railway tracks across the country to stall train movement for a few hours as part of the continuing campaign.

Since November, farmers have been protesting over new agricultural reform laws which they say will devastate their incomes.

It has posed a major challenge to the government, which claims the laws are needed to modernise Indian farming.

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