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Fr Stan Swamy IS Innocent

Cedric Prakash Cedric Prakash
19 Dec 2022
Fr. Stan’s only crime was that he believed in the Gospel of Jesus and in the Constitution of India – and he did all he could to realize this in the lives of the sub-alterns, those who were voiceless victims of an inhuman system.

That Fr Stan Swamy is innocent, it was never in doubt. From Day One, when his name began doing the rounds as one of the ‘wanted’ in the Bhima-Koregaon conspiracy case, he vehemently denied any involvement. Later, the hounding and the harassment began with investigations, interrogations and the ‘seizing’ of his meagre possessions including his computer. Then the biased agencies ‘confronted’ Fr. Stan with some emails and other documents which they had apparently ‘found’ in his computer. Fr Stan once again said that he knew nothing about them: he neither wrote the stuff with which they were accusing him of nor did he know or was in contact with any of the persons being referred to. Then came that infamous day: October 8, 2021 when he was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and incarcerated in the Taloja jail near Mumbai. He suffered greatly during that time, until his death, which was indeed an institutional murder, on July 5, 2021.

All through, Fr Stan asserted and maintained his innocence. He would constantly say, “I have done nothing wrong. I am innocent!” Everyone believed him: the Adivasis, whom he selflessly served; the poor and the marginalized; the excluded and the exploited; and people from every walk of life: the academics and civil society, ex-bureaucrats and politicians from across the spectrum. Hundreds of thousands came out in support of him onto the streets despite the COVID times. His incarceration and the brutalization to which he was subjected to, figured across the globe; United Nations agencies and foreign Governments sent missives to the Indian Government; Statements were issued from every quarter. Nothing, however, could budge a vindictive, unjust system that went all out ‘to teach a lesson’ to this frail 84-year-old Jesuit priest. 

Fr. Stan’s only crime was that he believed in the Gospel of Jesus and in the Constitution of India – and he did all he could to realize this in the lives of the sub-alterns, those who were voiceless victims of an inhuman system. The agencies that hounded him – particularly the National Investigation Agency (NIA) -- did not have a shred of evidence to prove his so-called ‘anti-national activities’. They made him languish in jail till a sensitive judge allowed him to be hospitalised in a private facility whilst still in custody. It was then too late. When Fr Stan went to his eternal reward on July 5, 2021, the verdict by ‘we the people’ was loud and clear: ‘Fr Stan succumbed to institutional murder! He is innocent!’

Now the bombshell! On 13th December, the prestigious US daily The Washington Post under the title, ‘Hackers planted evidence on computer of jailed Indian priest, report says’, detailed the findings of the reputed US-based forensic firm Arsenal Consulting. The Arsenal report provides incontrovertible evidence of how Fr Stan’s computer was hacked and incriminating documents were planted in it. The Washington Post says, “Now, an examination of an electronic copy of his computer by Arsenal Consulting, a Massachusetts-based digital forensics firm, concludes that a hacker infiltrated his device and planted evidence, according to a new report by the company. The analysis is more proof that Swamy and his co-defendants were framed in a case that exemplifies the Indian government’s crackdown against civil society and prominent critics, the defense team says.”

The article went on to add: “The latest report by Arsenal says Swamy was the target of an extensive malware campaign for nearly five years, the longest known for any defendant, right up until his device was seized by police in June 2019. During that period, the hacker gained full access and had complete control over his computer, dropping dozens of files into a hidden folder without his knowledge. Arsenal has conducted its work at the request of the group’s defense team. These documents — purported letters between defendants and the Maoist group — are cited by the police as evidence against Swamy and others in what is known as the Bhima Koregaon case. International human rights groups, including United Nations experts, have previously called on the Indian government to release the defendants, at least on bail, given their advanced ages and ill health.”

The 25-page Report of December 11, 2022, produced by Arsenal Consulting, is furnished with technical data.  Arsenal had proved earlier how the computers of two of the other BK accused Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling were also hacked. In the Introduction, Mark Spencer, the President of Arsenal Consulting states, “Arsenal produced four reports in this case related to Rona Wilson (“Report I” on February 8, 2021, “Report II” on March 27, 2021, and “Report IV” on August 18, 2021) and Surendra Gadling (“Report III” on June 21, 2021) and was then asked by Fr. Swamy’s defense team to produce a report regarding our analysis of electronic evidence seized from Fr. Swamy’s home”.

In a detailed Press Release on the findings by Arsenal Consulting, Dr. Fr. Joseph Xavier SJ, Convenor of ‘Fr. Stan Swamy Legacy Committee of the Jesuits’ says: “Hackers first attacked Father Stan’s computer on October 19, 2014 using a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) called Netwire. RATs allow an attacker to both remotely surveil someone’s computer, and to transfer files from and to the computer. In Father Stan’s case, every single thing he typed was recorded using a process called “keylogging.” The report shows examples of the hackers being able to read his passwords as he was typing them, as well as other documents and emails. The hacker also surveilled as many as 24,000 files on Father Stan’s device.” 

He goes on to add, “In addition to surveillance, digital files were planted on Father Stan’s hard drive across two hacking campaigns starting in July 2017 and continuing till June 2019. Over 50 files were created on Father Stan’s hard drive, including incriminating documents that fabricated links between Father Stan and the Maoist insurgency. The final incriminating document was planted on Father Stan’s computer on June 5, 2019, a week before the raid on Father Stan. It was on the basis of these documents that Father Stan was first arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case, in spite of experts raising serious doubts about the authenticity of the documents.” 

What clearly emerges from this significant report is that Fr Stan Swamy was framed, his computer was hacked over a period of time, some forty incriminating documents were planted in his computer. Above all, as was believed by most people, Fr Stan Swamy is innocent. Ever since the Arsenal Consulting Report was released, there has been a groundswell of support for the innocence of Fr Stan Swamy and also for all the others still languishing in the Bhima-Koregaon conspiracy case. The NDTV channel (despite there being a change in ownership) headlined this story for more than a day. Surprisingly, other national channels and also mainstream media have taken note of this report which speaks volumes. Significantly, Opposition members in Parliament walked out of the session protesting a wide range of issues including that Fr Stan Swamy is innocent. 

Statements are pouring in from civil society groups, human rights organisations, eminent individuals and others. Social media too has highlighted the innocence of Fr. Stan. The internationally renowned UK-based ‘Christian Solidarity Worldwide’ has issued a powerful statement. CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: ‘This report, with its detailed analysis that Father Stan Swamy's computer was hacked, is further proof that his arrest and the treatment meted out to him while in prison, that ultimately cost him his life, were a violation of his human rights. We call upon the Supreme Court of India to declare Father Swamy innocent, and to provide justice for those still languishing in jail in the Bhima Koregaon case.’

For the last few years, those who stand up for truth and justice on behalf of the excluded and exploited, the poor and the marginalised, are at the receiving end of a fascist regime. The vicious and vindictive regime spares no efforts in investigating and interrogating, in foisting false cases and using official Government agencies to hound and to harass anyone who dares to take a stand. Some people, like those in the Bhima-Koregaon case, are not only incarcerated but also killed. 

The Arsenal findings have not only vindicated Fr. Stan, but will hopefully ensure newer and greater momentum to those who want to preserve the democratic ethos and pluralistic fabric of the country. Many citizens now feel that the ball is with the Supreme Court where we still have Judges who believe in truth, fair play and justice. The apex Court can easily do a ‘suo motu’ on these findings. The findings of Arsenal cannot be contested; if there are doubts, since cyber-crime knows no boundaries, an independent international forensic firm can always be invited to authenticate the findings of Arsenal. One message however must come out loud and clear: Fr Stan IS innocent! Fr. Stan’s good name and his selfless service to the people must be redeemed. All political prisoners languishing in jail, particularly those in the BK case, must be released immediately and unconditionally. Those responsible for the murder of Fr Stan and the illegal incarceration of other innocent citizens must be brought to book immediately. The NIA must be disbanded and all draconian, anti-Constitutional laws must be repealed in toto. We need an India where truth, justice, liberty, dignity, equality and fraternity flourish.

In a video-message which went viral, a few days before his arrest in October 2020, Fr. Stan said, “What is happening to me is not something unique happening to me alone. It is a broader process that is taking place all over the country. We are all aware how prominent intellectuals, lawyers’ writers, poets, activists, students, leaders, they are all put into jail because they have expressed their dissent or raised questions about the ruling powers of India. We are part of the process. In a way I am happy to be part of this process. I am not a silent spectator, but part of the game, and ready to pay the price whatever be it.” 

None of us can be silent spectators at this moment. We must get out of our comfort zones and courageously say, “Fr Stan Swamy IS Innocent!”

(Fr Cedric Prakash is a human rights, reconciliation and peace activist/writer. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com)

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