Rahul Gandhi, a leader of the Indian National Congress, the main opposition party in India, has been sentenced to two years in prison for defamation. Gandhi, who last September began a long march on foot across India with the aim of “uniting the country”, was convicted of calling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “a thief” during an election rally in ‘April 2019. The sentence was suspended after Gandhi paid a bail, who now has 30 days to appeal.
Gandhi is 52 years old and is the last exponent of a very successful political dynasty, which despite the homonym is not related to Mahatma Gandhi. The case that concerned him started from the report of a member of parliament of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Modi’s conservative party, according to which he had defamed both the prime minister and other people, accusing them of corruption.
Indian law provides that defamation can be punished with sentences of up to two years in prison. However, civil rights organizations argue that the laws relating to the crime, dating back to the British colonial period, go against the principles of freedom of expression and are often used by politicians to intimidate their critics. At the end of February, the spokesman of the Indian National Congress, Pawan Khera, had been arrested and released after a few hours, again with the accusation of having insulted Modi, a right-wing Hindu nationalist, who has been accused of having progressively limited freedom of the press and of expression.
– Read also: Rahul Gandhi’s Long March in India
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