05/11/2015, 00.00
INDIA
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Thirteen people convicted of mutilating Christian professor

by Nirmala Carvalho
After TJ Joseph was accused of blasphemy in 2010, a group of Muslims cut off one of his hands. A court in Ernakulam handed down an eight-year sentence to ten defendants, two years for the other three. The prosecutor had demanded life imprisonment. The main suspect is still at large.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – "We are pleased with the verdict. No one can resort to barbaric and violent actions for an alleged insult to Islam. This cruel and gruesome act was one of the most depraved I ever saw,” said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

The Christian activist spoke to AsiaNews after a court convicted the people charged with attacking TJ Joseph, a Christian professor, and cutting off his right hand and part of his right arm cut off in 2010, after he was accused of blasphemy.

On Friday, the special court in Ernakulam (Kerala) found 13 people guilty in connection with the incident. Ten defendants were sentenced to eight years in prison, the other three got two years. In addition to jail time, the culprits will have to pay the victim damages of 800,000 rupees (US$ 12,500).

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), India’s federal police, led the probe.  The prosecutor accused the defendants of murder, conspiracy and sedition, and asked for a life sentence for all of them.

The court found the accused guilty, but significantly reduced the sentence. For this reason, the prosecutor said he was "not satisfied" with the verdict and said he planned to appeal to a higher court.

In the past, the court had acquitted 18 other defendants for "lack of evidence". Five other suspects – including the main accused – are still at large.

Popular Front of India activists attacked TJ Joseph, a Malayalam literature professor at Newman College in Thodupuzha in July 2010 as he made his way home after church with his mother and sister.

The attackers claimed they cut off his right hand and part of his right arm to punish him for the "sacrilegious undertones" of an item on a questionnaire he had submitted to his pupils.

At the time of the attack, the teacher was out on bail. He had been arrested in April 2010 because of the questionnaire, which some Muslim groups deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed.

"TJ Joseph’s attackers followed the 'Taliban model' of cutting off the hand,” the GCIC president told AsiaNews. “They also wanted to strike at knowledge and development, represented by his work as a teacher."

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