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Bhima Koregaon Case: US Agency Finds Malware Planted in Rona Wilson’s Laptop

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Source: Rona Wilson's Facebook account

A private forensics firm approached by the lawyer of Rona Wilson, who is one of the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case and was arrested in June 2018, has found malware in Wilson’s laptop that was one of the key evidences against him, The Washington Post reported.

According to the report from a USA-based digital forensics firm, Arsenal Consulting, that examined an electronic copy of the laptop at the request of Wilson’s lawyers, an unidentified attacker planted malware on Wilson’s laptop to infiltrate and deposit at least 10 incriminating letters, including the one with the plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“As stated in the executive summary, Arsenal’s analysis in this case has revealed that Rona Wilson’s computer was compromised for just over 22 months. The attacker responsible for compromising Mr Wilson’s computer had extensive resources (including time) and it is obvious that their primary goals were surveillance and incriminating document delivery,” the summary of Arsenal Consulting’s report stated.

Following the US agency’s forensic claim, Jaya Roy, spokesperson for the National Investigation Agency (NIA), said that the forensic analysis conducted on Wilson’s laptop by NIA did not show any evidence of malware on the device. She said that there was “substantial documentary and oral evidence” against him in the case.

In the latest report that focuses on Wilson’s laptop, the same firm claimed that the same unknown hacker had planted 22 more documents on the laptop, indicating a wider use of malicious software compared to that of the previous analysis. All the 32 documents have been mentioned as evidence by NIA against the group of accused activists alleging them of working closely with the long-banned Maoist militant organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist).

The court, on Thursday, has adjourned the hearing for April 29.

(Left) Sudha Bharadwaj. Photo from Wikipedia, (Middle) Varavara Rao Silverscreen Media Library (Right Top) Gautam Navlakha. Photo from Wikipedia, (Right Bottom) Stan Swamy. Photo from Wikipedia

Wilson, a Delhi-based researcher and a public relations secretary of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, was accused of writing a letter to a Maoist militant in which he had discussed the requirement of guns and ammunition urging the banned group to assassinate Modi.

This February, Wilson’s lawyer filed a petition at the Bombay High Court to dismiss the case against him on the grounds that a new investigation had found malware in his laptop.

In January 1, 2018, violence erupted a day after the annual celebration at the Elgar Parishad at Bhima Koregaon, a panchayat village in Maharashtra, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon, in which Dalits of the village fought as soldiers (mahars) in the British army and defeated the Brahmin Peshwa Bajirao II.

Following the incident, 16 activists, academicians and scholars, poets and journalists, including Wilson, were arrested and booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. While many of them are awaiting trial for over two years, others have been denied bail multiple times. They have been accused of having Maoist links, backing the event that led to the violence where one person died and conspiring Modi’s assassination.

While Varavara Rao, the 82-year-old Telugu poet and activist, is the only one among the 16 accused to have been got bail, 83-year-old Father Stan Swamy has been denied bail. Father Stan Swamy has worked several years for the rights of the Adivasi communities. Shoma Sen, a Women’s rights activist and the Nagpur University professor who is also one of the accused in the case has appealed to the court to club her case along with that of Wilson’s seeking bail. Other 14 co-accused still await their trial.

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