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Court orders release of rights activist Irom Sharmila

Court orders release of rights activist Irom Sharmila

Imphal: A court in Manipur Tuesday asked the state government to release human rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been on indefinite fast for 13 years demanding revoking of the anti-terror act.

"Ordering her release, a district sessions court observed that the prosecution has failed to establish Sec 309 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) (attempt to commit suicide) case on Sharmila," a defence lawyer told reporters.

Quoting the court order, he said: "The court observed that it is just a claim that she wants to commit suicide. No proof was established against the allegation of the authority. Hence, she cannot be kept under arrest and should be freed immediately."

However, no official reaction was available following the court order.

Sharmila, 42, better known as the "Iron Lady", has been on an indefinite fast since Nov 4, 2000, demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, (AFSPA) after killing of 10 civilians allegedly by the paramilitary Assam Rifles near Imphal airport Nov 1, 2000.

She was charged with attempting to commit suicide. Under this charge, she can be kept in custody for a year at a stretch.

In view of her ill health, Sharmila is currently lodged in a special ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal where one room, where she is confined, has been declared a sub-jail.

Sharmila is released and re-arrested every year (as the law allows detention only for 364 days) and force-fed a diet of mixture of liquefied carbohydrates and proteins through the nose thrice a day.

The AFSPA, against which Sharmila has been fighting, provides unlimited powers to the security forces to shoot at sight, arrest anybody without a warrant or carry out searches without hindrances. It also insulates the security forces from legal processes for any action undertaken under the act.

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