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'Ready to withdraw cases but release MLA first'

The Odisha government on Tuesday offered to withdraw cases against prisoners whose release had been demanded by Maoists in exchange for Biju Janata Dal MLA Jhina Hikaka. Albeit, it came with a rider: The Maoists had to release the legislator first.

india Updated: Apr 17, 2012 20:32 IST
Priya Ranjan Sahu

The Odisha government on Tuesday offered to withdraw cases against prisoners whose release had been demanded by Maoists in exchange for Biju Janata Dal MLA Jhina Hikaka. Albeit, it came with a rider: The Maoists had to release the legislator first.

“If the release of Hikaka takes place by 5pm on April 18 (Wednesday), the government will seriously consider withdrawal of prosecution (against the detainees) in suitable cases,” panchayatiraj secretary PK Jena, one of the government negotiators, told reporters.

Jena said the government had already declared to facilitate the release of 25 persons (including two whose release was demanded for Italian Bosusco Paolo’s release as well).

He also informed that two persons whose release had been demanded by the rebels got bail from courts. “Steps should therefore be taken for moving the bail petition in respect of all the persons whose names have been declared (by the government),” he said.

Jena’s response came after the Maoists who have kept Hikaka hostage since March 24 asked the government to stop delaying tactics and take concrete steps to release 29 prisoners as demanded by them in exchange for the legislator.

Earlier in the day, speaking on behalf of the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of the CPI (Maoist), rebel leader Aruna said in an audiotape that the government should tell specifically through media what steps it had taken regarding the release of the prisoners. “If we get specific assurance from the government by 5pm today, Hikaka will be released at 5pm on April 18. Otherwise, the government will be responsible if anything happens to Hikaka,” Aruna said in the audiotape.

The rebel leader added that the government should take the responsibility of processing bail applications instead of asking the prisoners to move their own.

The rebels earlier had demanded the release of 30 prisoners including Chenda Bhushanam alias Ghasi, who is alleged to be involved in the killing of 55 policemen in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

But issuing an audiotape on Sunday they struck Ghasi off their list and asked for release of the rest, who, they said, were mostly members of the leftist tribal organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha or just apolitical people. They also extended their deadline till April 18 for the government to release 29 prisoners in exchange of he legislator.

Following the freeing of the two abducted Italians, the state government has stepped up efforts to get Hikaka freed. On Friday, chief minister Naveen Patnaik flew to Koraput, from where Hikaka had been abducted. He held a high level meeting with senior officials on this.