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Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Outrages against liberty by various arms of the Indian state are neither rare nor mild, yet, even by those standards, the sentencing of Binayak sen is a shocking event. When a good doctor and an internationally acclaimed humanitarian is convicted by a court in a democratic(!) country and sentenced to life imprisonment: for violating arcane laws which should probably not be there, and which he anyway appears not to have violated, it is time for grief and rage.

I am not an expert on the various aspects of this case, but this much seems clear to me: Binayak Sen was not responsible for an act of violence. It doesn’t matter to me whether he is a Maoist sympathizer or not — if he is, that’s an exercise of his right to thought. It doesn’t matter to me if he spoke in favour of the Maoist movement — if he did, that was an exercise of his right to speech. It doesn’t matter if he possessed banned books — as far as I am concerned, possession of a book, whatever it is, should never be a crime. It doesn’t matter if he gave significant medical aid to an injured Maoist leader — if he did, he was doing exactly what every good doctor would have done in his situation. It doesn’t matter that he visited said Maoist leader in the jail or elsewhere — even disregarding the fact that such contact would have been normal in view of the doctor-patient relationship, noone, should ever, in any circumstance, be penalized merely for being in contact with another human being.

If Binayak Sen actively played a role in planning or executing violent deadly attacks, he should serve the time. But as far as I can tell, there is no evidence whatsoever he did so. Whatever evidence there is, point in a very different direction.  The notion — non actionable, even if true — that he was some sort of a believer in a Maoist ideology seems to be supremely wrong-headed. By all accounts — and I am relying here on accounts of those who know him — Sen’s beliefs were of a far more mild variety: he believed in inclusive growth, aid to underprivileged communities, an opposition to a system that created “two kinds of people” (the haves and have-nots), and so on. He is on record saying he abhors violence, including the Maoist variety. The evidence also points to him selflessly serving these underprivileged communities through his work as doctor. From the linked Tehelka article:

Drive 150 kilometres away from Raipur into the unforgiving dustiness of the forest around Bagrumala and Sahelberia in district Dhamtari, where Binayak ran his Tuesday clinic, and the heroic dimension of his work overwhelms you. There is nothing that could have brought a retired colonel’s elite, accomplished son here but extraordinary compassion. Scratchy little hamlets, some no more than 25-houses strong. Peopled by Kamars and other tribals, the most neglected of the Indian human chain, destituted further by the Gangrail dam on the Mahanadi river. No schools. No drinking water. No electricity. No access to public health. And increasingly, no access to traditional forest resources. Here, stories of Binayak Sen proliferate. How he saved young Lagni lying bleeding after a miscarriage, how he rescued the villagers of Piprahi Bharhi jailed en masse for encroaching on the forest, how he helped Jaheli Bai and Dev Singh, how he helped create grain banks. “Do something. Save the doctor,” says an old man in Kamar basti. “We have no one to go to now.”

In short, the evidence points to him being a man who above all believed in doing good. As a doctor, and a humanitarian with certain beliefs, he did good to everyone, from the powerless poor to some who the state considers its enemy. He spoke out against things he considered unjust and criticized the state whenever he felt it did wrong. Some of his acts made him, in the eyes of the powerful, a dangerous man who needed to be put down.

This ruling is certain to be challenged, but it still means that the forces of evil have won this round. For India and for liberty, this day is a black one.

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When I last wrote about Sen, a reader (Chetan) asked some interesting questions.

If this issue were to be discussed on the basis of principle alone, I would like to know your views about how you would view an arrest of a person who is actively involved in aiding and abetting a violent political movement.

For instance, were it to be proved that a person provided not just intellectual but also material and tactical support to a violent movement, do you think the State has no right to imprison him? (The implicit assumption here is that the person didn’t involve himself with the violence. Let’s just say he provided funding and helped perpetrators of violence hide from the cops knowing what they had done)

While I cannot cover every scenario here, a few things I believe are:

Helping a violent movement  in a way that is directly linked to the execution of violent criminal acts (giving them money knowing it would be used to buy guns, helping them plan an operation, carrying letters detailing this plan from one person to another) should be a crime.

“Helping” a violent movement in any other way (moral or intellectual support, giving legal advice or medical help, carrying a letter that merely contains seditious propaganda) should not be a crime. Nor should giving money be a crime if it is the case that this money will only be used for legitimate purposes and not for violent acts (or, by mens rea, even if the financier believes incorrectly such to be the case).

From the libertarian viewpoint, the most important issue when pondering the legality of a certain sort of indirect support is whether its nature is intrinsically rights-violating (NAP violating). A good rule of thumb to resolve this is to ask the following question: would it, in your mind, be legal to offer the same sort of support to another group that had till then not committed any crime? If the answer to this question is yes, then the support should probably be legal even when offered to a violent lawless group.

Granted, a few cases are somewhat on the line, but in Sen’s case, it doesn’t even seem close.

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Passing on the release by the Friends of CCL group. It is rather interesting.

On Thursday April 23 in Federal Court the Sentencing of Charles C. Lynch was again postponed until Monday June 11, 2009. The court filled with supporters from across the state and across the nation. Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Reason.tv and other news agencies watched and waited as Lynch’s defense team continued a courageous battle against his draconian Federal Prosecution. 

First Judge Wu read the recent letter from the Obama Administration saying the prosecution of Charles Lynch is consistent with the New Policy and said ‘that was that’. Wu then asked for plans for the hearing. Lynch’s Public Defenders said they had a number of testimonials and a video tape to submit to the court. The Prosecution said it had no testimonials from victims or any more information to submit to the court. 

Lynch’s attorneys began with a video tape of one of his former patients talking about Lynch’s compassion and Law Abidingness. The Judge stopped the video and told the defense to transcribe the video and submit it to the court. 

Next Lynch’s friend and former patient Owen Beck and his Father Steve Beck both gave testimonials of Lynch’s professionalism, compassion and compliance with State Law. Owen said that what is happening to Lynch is an injustice and asked the Judge for leniency.

 Next the Mayor of Morro Bay, Janice Peters boldly went before the Judge and told him how the City of Morro Bay had enacted a Medical Marijuana plan dating back to 1993, years before the California Compassionate Use Act was enacted. She continued to talk in support of Lynch stating that this is a victimless crime with one exception. The Mayor said that Lynch himself is the victim in this case, a victim of an unfair prosecution and continued to state how Lynch was handling such a terrible situation in such a respectful manner. 

Next the Morro Bay City Attorney Rob Schultz was sworn in, as the prosecutor demanded he be sworn in to testify, talked how he had been directed by the City of Morro Bay City Council to draft a solution that allowed medical marijuana dispensaries.  Shultz talked about how he had researched how other Cities such as Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles had adopted local ordinances regarding dispensaries and used these ordinances as models for the Morro Bay rules and regulations. Shultz zoomed in one rule in particular that the City had provided Lynch and that rule was the age limit of 18 or older unless accompanied by a parent for patients of the dispensary. Shultz testified that this seemed to be the standard among other cities across the state and so that was the rule that was designated for Lynch’s dispensary. Shultz also continued to say that Lynch’s dispensary was in compliance with the Local Laws issued by the City of Morro Bay. The prosecutor grilled Shultz and asked about Federal Law and mentioned Lynch’s dispensary in Atascadero that had been closed due to zoning changes. Shultz said the City of Morro Bay wanted to give Lynch a chance to run a professional law abiding dispensary and felt that Lynch had done so. During Schultz’s testimony Judge Wu was busily taking notes and scratching his head. 

Joe Elford of American’s for Safe Access spoke to the court and mentioned how Lynch was in compliance with the latest California Attorney General’s guidelines one and a half years before the guidelines were even issued. Reuven Cohen pointed out to the court the California Attorney General statements in the guideline that say “no legal conflict exists merely because state law and federal law treat marijuana differently” and that Lynch has been ‘duped’. Judge Wu responded saying ‘well that’s life’ as a very audible moan of disbelief echoed through the court room. Judge Wu continued the proceedings saying that he needs ways around the mandatory minimums and pointed out some language that he thought needed some briefing from defense and prosecutors before sentencing could continue.

As it became obvious that Lynch was not going to be sentenced during the hearing members of the media began heading for the doors in time to meet deadlines for the six o’clock news as prosecutors stared forward in disbelief. Lynch supporters wearing green “Compassion” ribbons stood in unison as the judge began scheduling for the next hearing saying that would be the final hearing in this case. Lynch is now scheduled to be sentenced on June 11, 2009.

As Lynch, his attorneys and supporters exited the building a large number of members of the media waited with microphones and video cameras in front of the Court house. Lynch, his attorneys and Morro Bay City Attorney answered questions for the cameras. Shortly after the press conference Lynch and his supporters gathered at a local pub for food and libations. Lynch said he was happy to walk out of the court house today and wanted to thank his family, his attorneys and his supporters for all they have done for him. 

Charles C. Lynch Sentencing
Monday June 11, 2009 at 10am
Federal Court Building Courtroom #10
312 N. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

I think it is becoming increasingly clear that Obama’s drug policy will be one of spineless dweebism. In short, he will mostly hem and haw; actual changes will occur only if he considers that it is politically safe for him to do so. Well there you go, Mr. President, there is currently enough sympathy for Lynch from the NY Times and your other friends and supporters. It really will be ok to stop this prosecution. So just do it: if not to redeem your integrity, at least to get some good press!

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A new Georgia law requires anyone convicted of a sex offence in the past to hand over all their user-names and passwords to the government.

Mind you, this law isn’t aimed only at child rapists and suchlike. It will cover everyone who has ever been convicted of a sex related offence. In essence, what this law says is, if you err sexually once — however minor your crime is — you lose all  privacy rights for the rest of your life. Oh — and did I mention that past laws have already made it impossible for these people to find a home or get a job long after they have finished serving their sentences?

Actually, I think these are great laws. For they further a very important principle: offenders must never ever be allowed to reintegrate into society.

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If you were disturbed by the Charlie Lynch story, here are some ways you can help.

Supporters of Charlie are planning a protest for October 6, 2008 which is the next day Charlie will be in the Federal Courthouse in Downtown LA. Court support will start at 8am and the rally will begin at 11am.

Even if you are not going to be able to make it to the protest on October 6, you can help by donating. I already did.

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Charlie Lynch was found guilty in a federal court today. He faces a minimum of five years in prison.

I blogged about the Charlie Lynch case here. Reason Hit and Run has an extensive coverage on the matter, which I highly recommend.

I don’t have much to say. It’s one of those deeply jarring events — so unjust and wrong that words are pretty nigh superfluous.

In the beginning of the last century, when my country was strugling for her independence, there were brave men and women who fought the good fight for all of us. Some of them went to prison, some died. Every war for freedom that has ever taken place has had its martyrs.

This is a war too, a war to end the most absurd war ever conceived. Charlie Lynch is not its first casualty, nor will he be the last. However, Charlie’s suffering will not be in vain, for every miscarriage of justice they commit strengthens our cause. In the end, the forces of reason and freedom will win, as they eventually must.

[Edit]: Do watch this video too.

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Drunk drivers should be punished, no one doubts that. Yet this story, which I found while randomly surfing through some related news is, I think, a sad tale of vengeful justice, and deserves to be repeated.

For 40 years, Phil Cisneros worked as a heavy-equipment operator in the copper mines outside Globe. He was a family man, a big-hearted guy who taught his five kids and a bevy of nephews fishing and woodworking. In time, he administered those same lessons to his 15 grandkids.

He was liked by everyone and life had been good to him till his wife, Lucy, got Alzeimer’s.

It was a difficult time, a time that would drive many men to drink. Cisneros was one of them. He’d never been a teetotaler; prosecutors say he’d been busted for DUI in 1980. But with his wife’s health declining, a one-time problem became a frightening pattern. Cisneros got popped for no fewer than four DUIs from 1989 to 1992, barely getting out of jail for one before he was charged with the next.

Lucy died in 1993. Obviously, Cisneros was devastated. Five years later, in 1998, he got one more DUI.

It is, indeed, a terrible track record. But then something happened. Cisneros stopped drinking and driving — and, for that matter, stopped driving at all, according to his neighbors and family. He met another woman (coincidentally, another Lucy), fell in love, and got married again.

He didn’t even get a parking ticket in the next nine years. His behavior was impeccable. He was happy. After many years of misery and sadness, life seemed to have turned good for him again.

If the ultimate objective of the law is rehabilitation — to turn offenders into good people — Cisneros had already achieved it.

But then, in 2007, he was arrested again and sentenced to three years in prison. No, it wasn’t a new offence.

It turns out he’d never cleaned up that last offense from nine years ago. And neither the prosecutor nor the judge was in the mood to give him a break.

Apparently, in Cisneros’ absence, a jury had sentenced him to eighteen months in prison nine years ago and Cisneros wasn’t even aware of it, till the Border Patrol arrested him when he was returning from a visit to Mexico.

Cisneros’ family — a huge, close-knit group — begged the judge. They said that the old man suffered from a host of health conditions: prostate cancer, diabetes, pulmonary hypertension, sleep apnea, shingles, and shortness of breath. He’d already had double bypass surgery.

And his second wife had cancer.

But the judge wouldn’t relent.

Phil Cisneros was 83 when he was put behind bars last year. As feared, he was repeatedly hospitalized during his prison stay. Then he had a heart attack.

The family petitioned Governor Janet Napolitano for clemency: His death, they said, was imminent. Her board of executive clemency recommended his release, unanimously, on March 4.

Phil Cisneros was finally released on March 7 after a gruelling nine months in prison. On march 9, he was dead.

(The original articles that I used as my source are by Sarah Fenske and appeared in the Phoenix New Times. They contain much more than I have quoted; click here and here)

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