‘Fr Stan Swamy did not even access plants on his computer’

Published on Dec 23, 2022 01:07 AM IST

Arsenal has found no digital evidence to indicate that there was any interaction between the owner of the computer and the documents that were planted on the hard disk. Further, the 45 documents seized by the NIA as evidence were created in such a short period of time

Mumbai, India - December 22, 2022: Mihir Desai, Senior Advocate at High Court of Bombay, Fr. Joe Xavier, Convenor of Fr. Stan Swamy Legacy Committee of the Jesuits, Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas, Former Principal of St. Xavier's College in Mumbai along with Nagarjuna G., Former Professor of Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR, during the press conference on “Fabricating Evidence Against Life & Liberty: Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer and its implications for Bhima Koregaon case, at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh (MMPS), near Azad Maidan, in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, December 22, 2022. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo) (HT PHOTO)
Mumbai, India - December 22, 2022: Mihir Desai, Senior Advocate at High Court of Bombay, Fr. Joe Xavier, Convenor of Fr. Stan Swamy Legacy Committee of the Jesuits, Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas, Former Principal of St. Xavier's College in Mumbai along with Nagarjuna G., Former Professor of Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR, during the press conference on “Fabricating Evidence Against Life & Liberty: Tampering with Fr. Stan Swamy’s computer and its implications for Bhima Koregaon case, at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh (MMPS), near Azad Maidan, in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, December 22, 2022. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo) (HT PHOTO)
ByGautam S Mengle

Mumbai:

Fired-up by the recent report by Arsenal Consulting, a USA-based digital forensic company, which stated that hackers had infiltrated Fr Stan Swamy’s laptop to plant incriminating data before framing him in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case, friends and well-wishers of the late activist converged upon Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh in a show of solidarity on Thursday.

They underlined in unison that Swamy had never accessed the alleged plants on his computer. The press conference was addressed by Fr Joe Xavier, convenor of the Fr Stan Swamy Legacy Committee of the Jesuits; Fr Frazer Mascarenhas, former principal of St Xavier’s college; senior advocate Mihir Desai, who represented Fr Swamy; and Professor Nagarjuna G, formerly associated with the Homi Bhabha Center for Science Education, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

Prof Nagarjuna broke down the findings of the report and said, “Arsenal has found no digital evidence to indicate that there was any interaction between the owner of the computer and the documents that were planted on the hard disk. Further, the 45 documents seized by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as evidence were created in such a short period of time that it was not possible for any human being to do it.”

Arsenal’s report stated that Fr Swamy’s computer was hacked as early as 2016 using a malware called Netware, which created and planted the documents on his hard disk. Subsequently, all digital evidence of the malware and its activities were remotely deleted from the hard drive a day before it was seized by the police – a log of this process has been detected, Arsenal has claimed.

Prof Nagarjuna added that the agency has also obtained a prima facie location of the malware’s command and control server, which controls a malware, but locations can be masked and hence revealing those details might not be ideal.

Senior advocate Mihir Desai said NIA’s attitude towards the findings of the report was itself suspicious.

“Firstly, if the prosecuting agency is relying solely on computer-based evidence, they have to be sure it will work, and they can’t be so confident unless they know that it is planted. More importantly, if the charge against all the arrested accused was that they were a threat to state security, how is this not a bigger threat? Are you not curious to know how documents can be planted remotely on a computer? Are you not concerned that this could happen to the prime minister or the home minister tomorrow?” Adv Desai asked.

Desai has known the Jesuit activist for close to 30 years and has in the past given legal aid classes to the tribals that he used to help.

He called into focus how the NIA did not seek a single day’s police custody when he was arrested, “knowing he was a frail old man and they did not want him dying on them”. Desai added that the copy of the charge-sheet made available to them in July 2021, had a letter addressed to the Forensic Sciences Laboratory, asking them to investigate possible hacking of his computer. However, the copy of the charge-sheet submitted in court did not have the letter.

Fr Xavier reminisced how Fr Swamy lost his cool when the issue of his sipper and straw hit the headlines. A Parkinson’s patient, Fr Swamy was struggling to drink water from a glass and had asked the court for a sipper, which was denied to him initially. It was given to him a month-and-a-half after filing an application in the special NIA court.

“Stan said that there were people living worse lives than him and he did not deserve limelight over something like this,” Fr Xavier recalled. He added Fr Swamy had attended the Earth Summit 2015 at the St Xavier’s College in Kolkata, and was given a pen drive full of related documents at the end of the event. He had copied the files on a folder in his computer, where the NIA claimed to have found the supposedly incriminating documents.

Over and above the injustice, the system’s cruel treatment towards him left every one shell-shocked, concluded Fr Mascarenhas.

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