US Court delays stall Techie fight to clear name

Vikram Buddhi, an IIT Mumbai alumnus and a PhD student at Purdue University has been in a Chicago jail for 3.5 years now, and his crime? He allegedly posted a message on a Yahoo board in 2005 ostensibly threatening to kill President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Vice-president Dick Cheney and top Republican leaders.

A concerned citizen contacted the Secret Service office to report the offensive messages, leading to an investigation and the subsequent arrest. The reason was that the inflammatory message was traced back to Vikram Buddhi’s computer on the University premises. (Incidentally this University network has been notoriously hacked several times, as per messages seen on various websites from students).

Vikram has always protested his innocence.

He was first picked up by the US Secret Service in January 2006 but let off with a warning. However, the authorities returned on Easter weekend with charges under 18 US Code 871 that deals with threats to the US President and his successors to the Presidency. Conviction under the charges invites a fine and a prison sentence of not more than five years. Ever since this, the techie has been languishing in various jails in the U.S. The case went to trial, and a guilty verdict was returned on June 25, 2007. Vikram is still in jail. No sentence has been set; and thus, no appeal can be filed.

Vikram’s father, Dr. Buddhi Kotasubbarao, himself a brilliant techie and an IIT Bombay alumnus has been a victim of false allegations. He learned law to defend himself once, and has now been running from pillar to post to gather support to save his son. Dr. Rao is a Supreme Court lawyer now, and was subjected to inhuman treatment by the US authorities when he was in the US to help his son’s case, says he, in this article. There have been petitions online and on hard copy as well as support pledges gather over entire student communities in India and abroad including the IIT alumni for Vikram’s release.  We reproduce the update received by Techgoss from Vikram Buddhi’s lawyer’s office as regards the latest in the developments in the case.

I would like to share with you new developments in Vikram’s case.  Just to refresh your memory, Vikram Buddhi is an Indian national, IIT Mumbai alumnus and a Ph.D. student at Purdue University who, on fictitious and cooked up grounds, was tried in Court of Hammond, Indiana and has been kept in Chicago Federal Prison for last 3.5 years.

1.   Vikram’s sentencing scheduled for Nov 19, 2009 has been postponed for almost a month to Dec 10, 2009. It was done at behest of new defense attorney Mr. Arlington Foley, the new public defender appointed by the Court in early 2009. In the motion moved by him for a new date, filed on 28.10.2009, he cites his busy schedule, on account of some other case, for 2.5 weeks in November 2009 as the reason for his request of a new date.

2.   I met Mr. L K Adwani, Hon’ble leader of opposition in Lok Sabha and senior BJP leader, on 17.11.2009 at his residence for 1+ hour. He gave a very patient hearing of the whole matter and then made calls to an ex foreign Secretary to know the possible ways for Govt of India to extend help in such cases and then to Mr. S M Krishna, Hon’ble Minister for External Affairs, to know the present status of the Govt initiatives on the case but both were found busy attending the dinner hosted for Canadian Prime Minister Mr. Stephen Harper. Later Mr. S M Krishna called him back and told him the following.
a.   He did notice something fishy in the details of the case and he believes that Vikram is innocent.
b.   His office through Indian Embassy at Washington DC is in touch with the office of US attorney General Mr. Eric Holder on this issue.
c.   He is accompanying Hon’ble Prime Minister in his forthcoming visit to Washington DC next week and he will be personally following up the case there.

Mr. Adwani has written a letter to the prime minister on this issue. On my request to raise the issue of inertness of the Govt of India on the issue in the parliament, he advised to exhaust all the resources available otherwise and that should be the last option. He promised all the help whatever he can extend in his capacity on the issue.

3.   On Saturday I received an email from a big law firm headquartered in USA whom I was in touch with during my Chicago trip that they have someone ready from their Chicago office to represent Vikram.

4.   Esq. Amrit Singh is a famous civil rights attorney based at New York who is coincidentally daughter of our prime minister as well. She played a very big role in securing justice for many Guantanamo prisoners. Through someone close to her I have got a dossier sent to her. I am hopeful of getting considerable support from her in securing justice for Vikram.

5.   Because our prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is in USA these days and will be meeting President Obama. There can’t be a better opportunity for Govt of India to take up this issue with Govt of USA formally.  I am sure that friends in media will capitalize this golden opportunity to quiz both the governments on such blatant misuse of power to torture an innocent. I would like to remind you that Vikram is symbolic to all of us and it could have been anybody in his place.

I am sure that with your support, justice to Vikram can’t be denied any more and he will soon be with us helping many more Indians, lodged in US and other countries’ jails for no fault of theirs, in their fights for justice.

This fight for justice has far reaching consequences and we must contribute our bit in this fight to make sure that no innocents are ever again tortured like Vikram.

We are running against time in this fight to secure justice for Vikram.

Please suggest more ways and means to secure justice for Vikram in a quicker, accurate and lawful way.

Somnath Bharti, Advocate
Partner, Bharti & Associates (Advocates and Corporate Lawyers)

We hope that the PM’s visit to the White house has made a difference to this young man’s future. After all, justice delayed is justice denied.


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