09/09/2010, 00.00
INDIA

Hindu extremist MP sentenced for killings in Orissa anti-Christian pogrom

Santosh Digal
Manoj Pradhan will serve six years in prison and pay a fine for killing a Christian during the pogroms of 2008. In June he was convicted of another murder, but the Orissa High Court had granted him freedom on probation. Christian’s lawyer: "Now the victims can begin to have a little confidence in Indian legal system."

Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) - Kandhamal district court today sentenced to six years imprisonment Manoj Pradhan, a deputy for Orissa of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for the murder of Vikram Nayak, a Christian killed during the pogroms of 2008. The Hindu extremist – who also belongs to the radical group Sangha Parivar - will have to pay a fine of 250 Euros for legal costs.

The news was welcomed by the Christians of Kandhamal, who are still waiting for justice two years on from the pogroms. "Pradhan’s conviction - said Fr Dibakabr Parichha, a lawyer and supervisor of the trial - gives a ray of hope to victims of the pogrom in Kandhamal. " According to Markos Joseph Kunnumpurath, a lawyer who has been representing Christians at trials in recent years, "now the victims can return to have a little confidence in Indian legal system."

Among the main perpetrators of violence, Pradhan has been cited in 38 murder cases. Of these only six have been considered by the court. On 29 June the tribunal sentenced him to seven years for the murder of another Christian, Parikh Naik. The sentence was never served thanks to the Orissa High Court, which granted him freedom on probation.

Between December 2007 and August 2008, Hindu extremists killed 93 people, burned and looted more than 6,500 houses, destroyed over 350 churches and 45 schools. Because of the pogroms, over 50 thousand people fled into the forest, many of them are still living in refugee camps. Others who returned to their villages, were forced to reconvert to Hinduism. To date, most perpetrators are free and at the trials in Kandhamal court witnesses have been silenced with threats and discrimination.

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