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'Conspiracy to discredit' elections probed

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A computer scientist who exposed serious vulnerabilities in India's electronic voting machines will remain in police custody until at least Saturday, seven days after he was arrested, news websites reported.

A metropolitan court magistrate in Mumbai on Thursday denied a motion to release Hari Prasad on bail before August 28. Prasad – who is the technical coordinator of a group called VeTA, short for Citizens for Verifiability, Transparency and Accountability in Elections – was arrested after refusing to divulge the source of an EVM that he used to demonstrate flaws that could be exploited to rig Indian elections.

His Hyderabad home was raided early Saturday morning by authorities who questioned him for two and a half hours before taking him into custody, a colleague of his has said. Police then transported him to Mumbai, about 14 hours away, where he has been held ever since.

“This is a very sensitive case with repercussions at the national level and police should be given time,” Magistrate V B Srikhande said in court on Thursday, according to The Times of India. His denial was in response to claims by investigators that they needed more time to learn the identities of two activists from Maharashtra who allegedly worked with Prasad.

Prasad has claimed he obtained the EVM legally and returned it within two days.

Government officials told The Hindustan Times they have “found that two Americans and one Dutch national had helped Prasad” tamper with the machine. This isn't much of a revelation. The (PDF) paper documenting the vulnerabilities was published in April and authored by eight researchers from the US, India and the Netherlands.

“We are conducting a thorough probe to find out who was actually behind it, why it has been done and whether there is a conspiracy to discredit India's election process,” the unnamed official told the publication.

VeTA has long pushed for machines that provide a verifiable paper trail that can be used to audit the accuracy of elections. ®

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