23 June 2021, The Tablet

Stan Swamy health 'critical' as hospital stay extended

Stan Swamy health 'critical' as hospital stay extended

Protests have continued in attempts worldwide to help imprisoned Jesuit Fr Stan Swamy
Jesuit Missions

Concerns are growing for the health of the imprisoned Jesuit priest Fr Stan Swamy whose stay in intensive care has been extended after his health was found to be in critical condition. 

Fr Swamy, 84, was arrested with 15 others on 9 October 2020 on charges of terrorism and sedition, specifically for having ties with extremist and Maoist groups trying to conspire against the government.

He has worked for more than four decades in championing the rights of the indigenous communities of the Adivasi in the Indian state of Jharkhand. He and those arrested with him, along with their supporters, have consistently denied the charges. Their supporters believe they have been framed for criticising the policies of the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party.

He suffers from Parkinson’s disease and has impaired hearing. He was admitted to hospital on 28 May after his health began to decline severely in prison. 

Fr Damian Howard SJ, Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, said: “As Fr Stan’s health continues to deteriorate, it is shocking that the authorities show no sign of ending the inhumane treatment meted out to him. He should immediately be released so that he can die among the people of Jharkhand, as he has requested.” 

The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA) reports that he has tested positive for Covid-19 and as a result of his continuing deteriorating health, the Bombay High Court has now extended his hospitalisation from June 18 to July 5. 

Even before testing positive for Covid-19, Fr Swamy had already been suffering from poor health due to his Parkinson’s disease and other age-related illnesses. The SJES in the press release reported Father Joseph Xavier SJ saying that on a telephone call with him, Father Swamy had said: “I feel bad, I have a severe headache, fever and cough. I feel very weak.”

Before his hospitalisation, Fr Xavier Jeyaraj, the Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology, said: “The Society of Jesus is deeply anxious about the deteriorating health of Fr Stan Swamy and all other accused in the BK-16 case. We earnestly appeal to all concerned authorities in India to consider the health of Fr Stan and other prisoners a priority and release them without any delay.”

Calls for his immediate release started when he was first arrested and have only increased as his health in prison has severely declined. Another press release on October 20th, 2020, showed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressing her concern for Fr Swamy and urged the Indian authorities “to release people charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for simply exercising basic human rights that India is obligated to protect”.

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