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ss triple helix - summer 2002,  Ian Stillman - A Gross Miscarriage of Justice

Ian Stillman - A Gross Miscarriage of Justice

Ian Stillman is profoundly deaf, diabetic, has only one leg and is a Christian. He has lived in India for 30 years and established the Nambikkai Foundation for the deaf. It has helped over a thousand deaf people to find jobs, and endeavours to improve the image of the deaf - many in India still believe disability reflects sins from a previous life.

In August 2000 Ian was in North India, researching work amongst the deaf there. Police allegedly found a bag containing 20kg of cannabis in his taxi. Incredibly the others in the taxi were released, but Ian was arrested and charged with drug smuggling. At first he and his family adopted a low profile. Knowing he was innocent and physically incapable of carrying a 20kg bag of anything, Ian trusted Indian justice, and was confident that he would soon be free. He did not want too much fuss lest the authorities be antagonised, and his release delayed.

The case is scarcely credible. He was tried in Hindi - which he doesn't understand, was denied a sign language translator and had to rely on lip reading his lawyer's English. He was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. His appeal failed, the court deciding he was 'hard of hearing' rather than deaf. All hopes were pinned on his appeal to the Indian Supreme Court, but in May this year the court refused to allow his appeal, one of the judges stating that the disabled were 'well known to be involved with drugs'. Characteristically, Ian was more upset at this slur on the disabled than on his own continued incarceration.

With the legal process ended, there is a growing campaign to persuade the authorities to think again. There are real concerns for his health, and prejudice against the disabled - especially the deaf - has been unmasked.

Ian, like his Saviour before him, has been a victim of gross injustice but has been sustained throughout by a sense of God's presence and of prayer support from around the world. But why not write to him in prison, sign the petition (contact Friends of Ian Stillman, 13 Hilton Place, Leeds, LS8 4HF - or write to your MP? Get your church concerned and praying!

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