Kerala police must immediately release Human rights activists Jaison C Cooper and Thushar Nirmal Sarathy who were arrested on suspicion of being involved in unlawful activities because they had ‘pro-Maoist’ materials in their homes. They were denied bail on 3 March, and continue to be held in judicial custody.

On 30 January, the Kerala police arrested Jaison C Cooper and Thushar Nirmal Sarathy in Kochi and Kozhikode in Kerala state respectively. The investigating officer in the case told Amnesty International that the men had supported banned armed Maoist groups and were also involved in an attack on the National Highway Authority of India’s project office in Kochi on 29 January. The men were arrested under India’s principal anti-terror legislation, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The investigating officer, however, also admitted that the only existing evidence against the men was that the police had found pamphlets and materials ‘supporting Maoist groups’ in their homes, including a book titled Why Maoism? in Jaison C Cooper’s home. The police also said that they had found a document in Thushar Sarathy’s house signed by a leader of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) armed group, giving him power of attorney. A local court denied the two men bail on 3 March on the grounds that the case required more investigation.

Indian courts have stated on multiple occasions that the mere possession of certain literature cannot be considered a crime. India’s National Human Rights Commission has asked for a report from the Kerala police on the arrests.

Thushar Nirmal Sarathy’s wife believes that her husband was arrested because he is an active member of several groups protesting against land acquisition by the state government. Jaison C Cooper has also been actively engaged in protests against land acquisitions and forced evictions.

Please sign our petition demanding the Kerala Government to:

- Immediately and unconditionally release Jaison C Cooper and Thushar Nirmal Sarathy;

- Pending their release, the two men should be protected from torture and other ill-treatment;

- Ensure that human rights activists in Kerala can carry out their work without intimidation or harassment, and take prompt action against those who violate their rights.