Northern Ireland justice campaign launched by medical 'chain gang'

By agency reporter
October 15, 2009

A 'chain gang' of shackled doctors assembled in Belfast on 14 October 2009 to call for the release of a doctor who spoke out on behalf of his patients - and was thrown into jail for his troubles.

Twenty four campaigners dressed as doctors with white coats and stethoscopes were individually handcuffed and chained together to highlight the plight of Dr Binayak Sen, an award-winning paediatrician who has spent three decades serving poor communities in central India.

The demonstration launched Amnesty International's justice campaign which will run throughout the two weeks of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's.

Campaigners will be out and about at Festival events and in the university area of Belfast every day until the end of October asking people to have their photographs taken as part of a worldwide online campaign.

Dr Sen was imprisoned in May 2007 on what Amnesty International has called 'trumped up charges', with his only crime being to expose the negative impact of government policies on poor people in the region. Dr Sen's arrest has been condemned worldwide by renowned doctors and Nobel laureates.

Patrick Corrigan, Programme Director for Amnesty International, said: "Festival time is an opportunity to celebrate our freedoms. This year Amnesty is giving festival-goers a chance to bring justice to a man who desperately needs our help."

Dr Sen visited prisoners to provide legal and medical assistance with the full knowledge and permission of the jail authorities.

The authorities allege that he passed letters between imprisoned members of a banned leftist group, despite his visits being supervised and facilitated by the prison authorities.

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