The Indian doctor whose life imprisonment sentence has drawn condemnation from around the world is walking free, for now. Binayak Sen said he never betrayed India, and vows to campaign against the sedition laws that kept him behind bars for four years.
Family members rushed to embrace pediatrician Sen as he walked out of a jail in Raipur, in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. He had been behind bars since 2007, when police arrested him on charges he conspired with insurgent groups blamed for hundreds of deaths in terror attacks. Prosecutors accuse him of sedition and waging war on his country.
India's Supreme Court granted him bail Friday. Now that he can speak for himself, Sen said he is no traitor to India.
"I know in my heart that I have never betrayed the people of my country. And so... I have never accepted the charge of sedition against myself."
Supreme Court judges rejected the main pillar of the prosecutions' sedition charge, Sen's possession of Maoist pamphlets and other literature.
"The Supreme Court has made it clear that the law finds there is no evidence of any sedition against me," said Sen. "So the whole question of sedition should be taken off the panel."
Sen's humanitarian work treating tuberculosis in poor tribal areas of central and eastern India won him international recognition, and human-rights groups and Nobel laureates alike have flocked to his defense.
Sen is now one of India's most visible public figures. He said thousands of other Indians just like him, however, are unfairly imprisoned under what many see as draconian security laws that can be abused for the purposes of political intimidation.
Sen said India's sedition laws are a relic of British colonial rule that need to be scrapped or updated. He said India's definition of loyalty needs to be brought in line with the values of a free and democratic society.
The appeal of Sen's case is pending in the Chhattisgarh high court. As a condition of bail, he surrendered his passport and promised not to leave the country.