07/13/2018, 10.23
INDIA
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Orissa Pogrom: Over 50 thousand signatures for the release of incarcerated Christians

The seven are accused - without clear evidence - of the murder of Hindu leader Laxmanananda Saraswati. The assassination had been claimed by the Maoists, but the blame was dumped on the Christian minority. Inmates are people of humble origins and illiterate; they even include a disabled person.

Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews / Agencies) - On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the violence against Christians in Orissa, which will be commemorated with a solemn mass on 25 August, more than 50 thousand signatures were collected in favor of the release of seven incarcerated Christians .

The latter, including a disabled person, have been languishing for years behind bars charged without proof for the murder of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. Organizers of the initiative say their hopes of gaining their freedom thanks to an online petition that can be signed at www.release7innocents.com  is rekindled.

In a press conference held yesterday, Anto Akkara (the journalist who launched the platform on the web) invites everyone to sign the petition and support the release of prisoners. They are: Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Bijay Kumar Sanseth, Budhadeb Nayak, Durjo Sunamajhi, Gornath Chalenseth, Munda Badamajhi and Sanathan Badamajh. For each signature the site automatically generates four direct emails to the president of the Indian Supreme Court; to the office of the president of India; to the Director of the Commission on Human Rights; to the high court of Orissa.

On 23 August 2008, the assassination of the Hindu holy man, claimed by a group of Maoists but blame officialy laid on the shoulders of Christians of Kandhamal district, was the spark that triggered the most violent sectarian persecution in Indian history against Christians by Hindu radicals. It forced almost 56,000 refugees to flee and resulted in the pillaging and burning of 5,600 houses in 415 villages. According to activists, the victims were at least 91; nearly 300 churches destroyed, as well as convents, schools, hostels and assistance institutions.

Instead of searching for the perpetrators of the murder, with a series of sham trials, the judges of the Phulbani Tribunal sentenced seven Christians to life imprisonment, most of them humble and illiterate. For years the local Church has been fighting for their liberation. Recently, in an interview with AsiaNews, Mgr. John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, recalled their sufferings: "We pray to God so that He may soon give them justice and peace".

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