Jailed Indian cartoonist released on bail
NEW DELHI (AP) — A political cartoonist who was jailed on sedition charges for drawings that mocked corruption in the Indian government was released on bail Wednesday.
Supporters cheered and waved flags as Aseem Trivedi walked out of Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail after a high court said there was no need to hold him in prison.
Trivedi had earlier refused bail until all charges against him were dropped. The local government has promised to review the charges against him.
Sedition is punishable by up to life in prison.
"When you hear the word 'sedition' you are transported to 1857 where there is a king and citizens are afraid to criticize him. We must rethink the law," Trivedi told reporters after his release.
India's sedition laws date to the 1800s when the country was a colony of Britain. They have been used in the past to punish rights activists.
Trivedi was arrested Sunday based on a political activist's complaint that his cartoons insulted the country. The arrest highlighted the government's increased sensitivity to criticism.
A day later, amid protests by free-speech advocates and opposition parties, R.R. Patel, the home minister of Maharashtra state, said the government would review Trivedi's case.
Trivedi was one of two winners of the 2012 "Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award" by the U.S.-based Cartoonists Rights Network International.
His cartoons mocked corruption among Indian politicians and were displayed at a Mumbai protest in December by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare.
In 2010 Indian police sought to charge Booker Prize winner and social activist Arundhati Roy with sedition for questioning India's claim over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Also that year, Binayak Sen, a doctor and activist working with tribal poor in India's Chhattisgarh state, was convicted of sedition and sentenced to life in prison. The local government said Sen used his medical work as a front to support the cause of a Maoist insurgency in that state. He was later released on bail by India's top court and is appealing his conviction.