Cardinal Vincent Gerard Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, has joined calls for the release of Jesuit priest Stanislaus Lourduswamy, popularly known as Stan Swamy, who was detained under India’s Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
The 83-year-old priest is the oldest person in the country to face terror-related charges and has joined 15 others including human rights activists, journalists and scholars arrested in connection to a 2018 incident of caste-based violence known locally as the Bhima Koregaon case.
In an open letter, Cardinal Nichols urged Indian authorities to release Father Swamy on bail, “on humanitarian grounds, so that he can receive the medical attention he needs and challenge the manifestly unjust charges brought against him.”
The letter noted that the Father Swamy “has committed his life to working for the constitutional rights of the most impoverished and marginalized people in India.”
The Indian priest has been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and needs help with taking meals and dressing.
“He is now at grave risk of contracting COVID in an over-crowded prison in Mumbai,” read the letter of the British religious leaders.
Earlier, representatives of the United Nations have expressed concern over the arrest of Father Swamy and his treatment by Indian authorities.
Earlier this month Bishop Declan Lang, head of the British Bishops’ Conference Department for International Affairs, raised Father Swamy’s case directly with the UK government.
Father Swamy has been ordered detained by India’s Special National Investigation Agency court after being charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Father Swamy’s supporters said the priest is being branded as an anti-nationalist and was jailed because he was fighting for the implementation of laws passed by the parliament for tribal people and their constitutional rights.
On Oct. 26, the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences called for the priest’s immediate release following a similar statement issued by Indian bishops.