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India: Another Human Rights Defender Killed

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *

23 November 2000 ASA 20/056/2000 223/00

Amnesty International today expressed shock at the killing of human rights defender T. Puroshottam in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh and called on the authorities to order an immediate independent and impartial investigation.

T. Puroshottam, Joint Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), was attacked by a group of unidentified men wielding knives when he went to a local shop to buy soap this morning. Reports indicate that his throat was slit and that he died instantly.

The human rights defender who was involved in numerous investigations into alleged human rights violations by police including torture and extrajudicial executions, had been attacked in the past and had received persistent threatening phone calls. In May 1997, Amnesty International expressed concern for his safety after he was attacked in front of a police station in Mahaboobnagar district. He claimed that his attackers were police in plain clothes but the incident was never independently investigated.

At a meeting in December 1999 in Bangalore, he spoke of the continuing dangers faced by human rights defenders in Andhra Pradesh, several of whom were killed in the 1980s and early 1990s. The APCLC has claimed that police have been actively involved in attacks on human rights defenders and have employed ex-members of armed groups in their operations.

Given previous attacks on T. Puroshottam and his work in investigating human rights violations by police, it is essential that any investigation into his killing is carried out by authorities independent of the police in Andhra Pradesh and free of any political influence -- preferably by a judicial authority.

"The authorities' reaction to this killing will be a measure of their commitment to human rights protection, and the role of human rights defenders in Indian society," Amnesty International said.

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