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India 20 June 2005

N. Venugopal released on bail

(GIF) Reporters Without Borders notes the release on bail on 16 June 2005, of N. Venugopal (photo), managing editor of the Telugu-language bi-monthly Veekshanam, who was arrested on 30 May, along with three other members of the Revolutionary Writers Association (Virasam), Chenchaiah, G. Pinakapani and Ravi Kumar. Police, for a second time, opposed the bail application before the Nizamabad district court.

On the morning of 16 June, a petition, signed by more than 100 intellectuals, was handed into the Supreme Court in Andhra Pradesh State in the south-east, urging it to intervene in the case. Other documents were also handed in, including copies of official reports of previous acquittals of writers accused of "conspiracy" and copies of releases from press freedom organisations such as Reporters Without Borders.


Magazine editor arrested in Andhra Pradesh for "waging war against the state"

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the prolonged detention of N. Venugopal, the editor of the Telugu-language fortnightly Veekshanam in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, and the conspiracy charge that has been brought against him.

Venugopal was arrested on 30 May in the company of other writers and activists related to the local Naxalite Maoists.

The press freedom organisation called for his release on health grounds, as he suffers from diabetes. "The police and judicial authorities should take account of the fact that prolonged detention could be fatal," the organisation said. "Furthermore, it is shocking to see a journalist charged with conspiracy simply because of a meeting with Maoist militants."

In a raid on a hotel in Aurangabad (near Nizamabad) on 30 May, special branch agents of the Andhra Pradesh state police arrested six persons - two leaders of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and four members of the Revolutionary Writers Association (Virasam), including Venugopal.

The police kept their arrest secret for three days, finally taking them before a judge in Bodhan on 3 June. The police accused them under articles 121A ("waging war against the state"), 122 (conspiracy") and 120B of the criminal code. The judge allowed the police to keep them in custody for another 14 days for questioning.

The other detainees - including Pinaka Pani, the editor of the pro-Maoist literary magazine Aruna Tara, and Ravi Kumar, a member of his staff - were transferred amid the utmost security to Bodhan prison. Venugopal was taken to a hospital because of his diabetes, after his family accused the authorities of refusing to give him the daily insulin shots he needs. But he was transferred back to prison today.

After demonstrations by Andhra Pradesh journalists, the state’s chief minister, Raja Shekhar Reddy, promised that Venugopal would be released soon.

When he appeared in court, Venugopal said: "We are being charged on the basis of half truths (...) As a journalist, I have a right to meet a Maoist Party media representative."

After waging war against the Indian state for many decades, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) began negotiations with the authorities, especially in Andhra Pradesh, in 2004.

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