Canadian group condemns Patel trial

Women's organization urges her release during sentencing, appeals

September 20, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

An official of the largest women's rights organization in Canada is demanding that a Baltimore Circuit judge free Alpna Patel on bail while she awaits sentencing and possible appeal of her voluntary manslaughter conviction.

Patel, a Canadian dentist who fatally stabbed her physician husband in Baltimore, has been in the Baltimore City Jail since Monday's verdict.

A bail review hearing scheduled yesterday for Patel - who showed up in leg chains and handcuffs - was delayed until tomorrow because her lead attorney was out of town.

Circuit Judge John N. Prevas could release Patel on bail until her sentencing Oct. 24 or all expected appeals are completed.

Although her dead husband's father applauded the verdict, the Canadian National Action Committee on the Status of Women called for U.S. women to join the committee in condemning it.

"I think the [Canadian] women's community is shocked, stunned, and we feel a terrible injustice has happened," said Kripa Sekhar, vice president of the Canadian umbrella organization for more than 700 women's rights group. "We won't drop it ... we will be taking a more proactive role."

Sekhar said her organization would take unspecified protest action if Prevas keeps Patel in jail.

Sekhar, who said her organization represents more than a half million Canadian women, said she also plans to contact the Baltimore chapter of the National Organization for Women to get it involved in the case.

Jessica Morgan, president of the Baltimore chapter of NOW, said she has not had contact with Sekhar but is "definitely interested" in "talking to [Sekhar] and pursuing this."

"Many times women are prisoners in their relationship," Morgan said.

She noted that she is reserving judgment on Patel's case until she talks with Sekhar.

"Many times when women are accused of killing their husband they feel it was their only option."

Patel's plight has attracted support from Canadian women because they say she was the victim of traditional Hindu religious customs that diminish the rights of wives.

During her trial, defense attorneys argued that Patel's father-in-law, Nandlal Patel, mentally mistreated her, criticized her housekeeping skills and refused to let her live alone with her husband.

Patel lived with her in-laws in Buffalo, N.Y. while her husband completed a medical residency at Union Memorial Hospital. Patel traveled to Baltimore in March last year to present her husband, whom she had wed 10 months earlier in an arranged marriage, with a list of ways to save their strained marriage.

Viresh Patel was stabbed six times later that night.

Prosecutors argued Patel stabbed him when he fell asleep as she read the list.

Defense attorneys said she acted in self-defense when Viresh Patel attacked her.

"This was a new bride who was put through this," Sekhar said.

"I just hope [Prevas] is able to humanize this whole issue and see it from the context it's worth."

But Nandlal Patel, who traveled from Buffalo to Baltimore yesterday to attend the hearing rescheduled for tomorrow, said his son's death has been overshadowed by the courtroom drama.

"The whole year and a half, you did not hear one bad word about Viresh. That shows he was a good guy," Nandlal Patel said.

"He had so many dreams. He wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. He wanted to see people walk."

Nandlal Patel refused to comment on the criticism leveled against him during the trial but said he might make more extensive comments after the hearing.

"All I want to talk about right now is Viresh," he said.

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