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Evidence Planted On Activist Stan Swamy’s Laptop, Claims US Report

Stan Swamy was arrested at the age of 83 in the Bhima Koregaon case. (File)

New Delhi:

A new report from a US forensics company shows multiple incriminating documents planted in the computer of Father Stan Swamy, the 83-year-old activist-priest who was arrested in 2020 for alleged links to terror and died in custody a year later.

The report strikes a hole in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) charges against Stan Swamy, which revolve around alleged electronic correspondence between the priest and suspected Maoist leaders to prove he was part of an explosive Naxal conspiracy.

In its findings, Arsenal Consulting, a Boston forensics team hired by Swamy’s attorneys, says nearly 44 documents, including the so-called Maoist letters, were posted by an unknown cyber-attacker who gained access to Swamy’s computer over an extended period of time. five years, from 2014 to the point where he was mugged in 2019.

Arsenal Consulting says it has extensive experience working in digital forensics and has investigated multiple high-profile cases, such as the Boston Marathon bombing.

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This story is simultaneously reported by the Washington Post.

Swamy, a Jharkhand Jesuit priest who worked among tribes, was arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case, an action that drew widespread condemnation. Criticism escalated when he died of Covid-related complications within a year of his incarceration. Both the UN and the EU reacted strongly to the news of Father Stan Swamy’s death. A UN official called the news “devastating” and added that the priest had been imprisoned on “false terrorism charges”.

However, the NIA alleged that he along with 15 others was part of a conspiracy to incite riots in Bhima-Koregaon village in Maharashtra in 2018, when dozens of Dalits gathered to commemorate a historic battle in which Dalits defeated an army of the upper caste defeated. .

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Based on documents extracted from their computers, the NIA had also accused Swamy and the others – mainly left-wing activists, academics and human rights defenders – of conspiring with Maoists to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a video recorded just before his 2020 arrest, Father Swamy had debunked the alleged Maoist letters found on his computer, saying he “denied and disowned every extract presented to me by investigators”.

Now, some 17 months after his death, the Arsenal Consulting report shows that on Oct. 19, 2014, the hacker used a malware called NetWire to gain access to Father Swamy’s computer, for both highly invasive surveillance and “document delivery.”

According to Arsenal, one such document “delivered” to Stan Swamy’s computer by the attacker and part of the NIA’s indictment against the priest was an alleged letter sent by an “SS” – presumably Father Stan Swamy – to a ‘Vijayan Dada’. in October 2017. In the letter, “SS” asks “Vijayan” to take action “to jail senior leaders of the ruling BJP in the state and demand an end to the oppressive laws.”

Another document in the NIA indictment against Swamy, detailing the manpower and weapons of a Maoist unit called the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army in several Indian states, is also among the planted documents, Arsenal says.

According to Arsenal, they have found “no evidence that would suggest that the … documents were ever legitimately used on Father Swamy’s computer. More specifically, there is no evidence that would suggest that any of the (planted) documents, or the 22 hidden folders they were in were ever opened” by Swamy.

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Earlier reports from Arsenal Consulting had found evidence of similar evidence on the systems of at least two other co-defendants in the Bhima Koregaon case – activists Rona Wilson and Surendra Gadling. The reports revealed that an unknown hacker had placed more than 30 documents on Rona Wilson’s computer and at least 14 incriminating letters on Surendra Gadling’s computer.

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All three – Stan Swamy, Surendra Gadling and Rona Wilson – were targeted by the same hacker, according to Arsenal.

While Arsenal have not speculated on the attacker’s identity, the report says that on June 11, 2019, the attacker made frantic efforts to “clean up their malicious activities thoroughly”, a day before Pune police seized Stan Swamy’s computer took (June 12). ). The timing raises the question of whether the hacker had prior knowledge of the impending police action.

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