The death of Fr. Stan Swamy was finalised the day he was arrested: Senior Advocate Mihir Desai

A Press Conference discussing the recent Arsenal report, and the tampering of evidence in Late Fr. Stan Swamy’s Case

Fr Stan SwamyImage: Facebook / MumbaiRisesToSaveDemocracy

A press conference was organised by the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh in Mumbai on December 22, 2022. The aim of this press conference was to discuss the issue of reports recently released suggesting fabrication of evidence on the computer of Father Stan Swamy. The speakers at this conference were Fr. Joe Xavier, Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas, Senior Advocate Mihir Desai and Former Professor Nagarjuna G. There were almost 30-40 journalists present in the audience.

This press conference was held to shed light on the recent report released by an American forensic firm, Arsenal, which has exposed how multiple incriminating documents were planted in the computer of Father Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old activist-priest who was arrested for alleged terror links in 2020 and who died in custody a year later. The tragic death of Fr. Stan Swamy, after delayed medical health attention has been termed as a murder in judicial custody by the human rights movement.

The National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) accusations against Stan Swam were exposed by the most recent Arsenal report. These accusations center on purported electronic correspondence between the priest and purported Maoist officials to support the claim that he was a key player in a dangerous Naxal plot. The NIA had also accused Swamy and the others, who were primarily left-leaning activists, scholars, and human rights advocates, of plotting with Maoists to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi based on “materials retrieved from their laptops.”

Arsenal Consulting, a Boston-based forensic company retained by Swamy’s lawyers, says in its thorough findings that close to 44 documents, including the alleged Maoist letters, were inserted by an unidentified cyber attacker who gained access to Swamy’s computer over a lengthy period of five years, starting in 2014 and ending at the time of his raid in 2019.


Stan swamy

The first speaker at the conference was Fr. Joe Xavier. Fr. Joe started by telling how Fr. Stan Swamy were a close friend of his. A four-minute call would take place between them every 10 days while Fr. Stan was in Taloja Jail. Fr. Joe shared how, till the end, Fr. Stan would ask about the books that he had written and were in the process of getting published. Fr. Joe said that even when Fr. Stan were in the hospital, he would keep asking about his book. Fr. Joe also said that Fr. Stan kept saying that he had no idea about the letters that were being used by the NIA as evidence against him. On reports of the money that were transferred to him, as alleged by the NIA, Fr. Stan used to say “I am going to be rich. Some 10-15 million is being sent to me as per the NIA.” The speaker said that he used to make light of all the allegations being made by the NIA in the case against him as he knew that it was all planted and fabricated. Fr. Joe, while kindly remembering his friend, said that Fr. Stan died waiting for some evidence to come to light to prove that everything that was being used against him in his case was fabricated.

Fr. Joe Xavier emphasized how the NIA never returned Fr. Stan’s voter ID to him while he was alive. Elaborating on the same, Fr. Joe said that Fr. Stan did not have any other government issued document other than his Voter ID. When he was arrested, the NIA had confiscated the same. So, while hoping to get his bail, Fr. Stan would discuss with Fr. Joe on how he would have to get another document made in order to travel home.

Fr. Joe ended his speech by telling us how Fr. Stan used to say that the state is not performing their duty properly. He would keep talking about how the Adivasi community needed a life with dignity, and the fight for the same is going to be a long one.

The second speaker at the conference was Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas. Continuing with the discussion, Fr Mascarenhas said that this discussion was not only important because the evidence being used by state against human rights defenders is fabricated, but the way the state is treating people who are under-trial. “It is as if the state wants to kill us,” Fr. Mascarenhas told the audience. He further said that, “The case of Fr. Stan’s death behind state bars is just an example of what is happening to human rights defenders in India.”

Fr. Mascarenhas then said that the fabricated evidence was planted on Fr. Stan’s computer because his success was scaring the state. As narrated by him, Fr. Stan’s study on tribals in Jharkhand, who had their land snatched away, was reaching the people. Fr. Stan was also able to fight for the rights of the tribals and get them some justice, which was why he was targeted.

The third speaker in the conference was Nagarjuna G, Former Professor at Homi Bhabhi Centre for Science Education, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. He was explaining how evidence can be planted on a computer, and how intense movement on Fr. Stan’s computer a day before the said computer was taken by the NIA shows that it was all a plan. He emphasized on how this is the era of digital warfare. He went into detail to explain how the data on Fr. Stan’s computer was planted over the period of 5 years.

Post this, a 4 minute audio sent by wise of arrested Advocate Surendra Gadling was then played. Advocate Surendra Gadling is a human rights lawyer, best known for defending Prof. GN Saibaba and activist Arun Fereira. He is the president of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) and has been at the forefront of the quest for justice for Dalits, tribals and other marginalised people. He himself is from the Dalit community. He was arrested under several sections of the UAPA and the IPC.

In the audio, Minal Gadling was heard saying that a lot of innocent people have been targeted by the state and put behind bars. She emphasized on the importance of ensuring that such investigative agencies need to be hired for these human rights defenders cases which are not under the pressure of the government, and can give unbiased and fair reports.

Remembering Fr. Stan, Minal Gadling said due lack of medical facilities granted to him by the state, even after knowing the extent of his ailments, led to his death. And it is essential that the truth behind his death and arrest is brought to the forefront now.

The last speaker at the conference was Senior Advocate Mihir Desai. Desai, who has been representing Fr. Stan since his arrest, and had been a friend of the activist for 30 years. He said, “One thing that I can never believe is that Fr. Stan had anything to do with any kind of violence, even with a fly.”

He further said that “The death of Fr. Stan Swamy was finalised the day he was arrested.” Elaborating on this, Desai said that Fr. Stan was in a frail position. He was an 84 year old with Parkinson’s, along with a number of other ailment. He further said that the state also aware of the issues with his health, and that is why the state did not ask for a single day’s police custody in his case- because they did not want to be accountable for his death.

Desai represents a number of the human rights defenders behind bars, some of which are the ones arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case. Talking about the importance of the arsenal report, the senior advocate said that in most of the cases built against the ones arrested in the Bhima Koregoan case, the main evidence of the NIA was what was recovered from their computers. Thus, with the arsenal report, which has been analysed and issued by a reputed and trusted American organisation, they now aim to refute the false allegations made by the NIA against Fr. Stan Swamy and others. Desai further said, that “according to the Arsenal report, each and every evidence relied upon for Fr. Stan’s prosecution was planted.”

In addition to this, Desai said that according to him, the state, or at least some members of the state are fully aware of the fact that the case against Fr. Stan is false and fabricated. He provided 2 reasons for the same. The first reason, according to him, was that there was a lot of activity on Fr. Stan’s laptop a day before it was confiscated by the NIA, which was done to remove the footprints of the evidence planted in his laptop. He told the audience that two raids were conducted at Fr. Stan’s place. The first one was in the year 2018 and the second one in 2019, where his hard disk was taken by the NIA. The same hard disk was cloned by the prosecution in the court premises and given to the advocated representing Fr. Stan. This cloned hard disk was the then submitted by the advocates of Fr. Stan to the Arsenal Consulting for analysis. The senior advocate also said that they consciously choose Arsenal consulting, and not any Indian investigative agency, as they knew that no Indian agency would be willing to go against the orders of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The second reason given by Desai was the after the Arsenal report was released, the NIA was not even a bit curious to investigate if the evidence was actually planted or not, not even with the aim of disproving the Arsenal report. According to Desai, this behavior shows as if they were either expecting this result or already knew of it. Additionally, as per Desai, if such an investigation had actually been conducted by the NIA, and the results just haven’t been released, it is therefore only because they do not want to share the findings with the court and the world.

Desai ended the conference by emphasising on the fact that through this report, they want to get justice for Fr. Stan Swamy and access relief for the others that are still languishing in jails on the basis of false allegations. Towards the end, one of the journalists present there asked Desai if he is assured that the said Arsenal report will be successful in proving the innocence of the Bhima Koregaon accused, to which the senior advocate replied by saying that we have to depend on the courts, campaigns and media for that. While the courts might take time, it is essential that campaigns go on and the media helps us reach the people with the truth. 

To this, the journalist asked if they would get arrested for reporting on this issue?

The senior advocate then laughed and said, “You might get arrested anyway nowadays, with or without reporting on Stan Swamy”

Who was Stan Swamy?

Father Stan Swamy, the 84-year-old Tribal activist who had been battling for his life since May and had been put on ventilator support at the Holy Family Hospital, Bombay, breathed his last around 1.14 P.M on July 5, 2021. Fr Stan Swamy passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest early in the morning. The Jesuit Priest, wrongfully accused of being a member of a banned organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist), and hatching a serious conspiracy to overthrow the Government of India, was arrested on October 8, 2020. He was booked under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 505(1)(b) (makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public) 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 13 (punishment for unlawful activities), 16 (punishment for terrorist act), 17 (punishment for raising funds for terrorist act), 18 (punishment for conspiracy) 18-A (punishment for organising terrorist camps), 18-B (punishment for recruiting people for terrorist act), 20 (punishment for being member of a terrorist gang), 38 (offences related to membership of a terrorist gang) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.



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