Bangalore (AsiaNews) – A court in Puttur in Karnataka acquitted eight Christians accused of forced conversion, ruling that the defendants were innocent of the charges of forcing a Hindu to convert to Christianity.
"This is a victory not only for the eight innocent Christians, but for the entire Christian community,” Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews. “Christians are constantly harassed, threatened and imprisoned by the authorities with false accusations of forced conversions."
The eight men were arrested in September 2007 after someone in the village of Balya accused them of going door to door to proselytise.
After hearing the complaint, police in Kadaba registered the case against T Sebastian, K Varghese, M Thomas, S Babu, V Baby, T Joseph, T James and T Alexander.
The judges of the Fifth Additional District and Sessions Court in Puttur acquitted the Christians and ordered their release.
"Conversion is a right established by the Constitution,” the GCIC president said. “But conversion implemented by fraudulent means or coercion is illegal. It is not conversion."
However, "Christians in Karnataka are often threatened, harassed and insulted by Hindu right-wing extremists, who disrupt their prayers in private homes and blame them for alleged forced conversions,” the Christian leader said.
“The GCIC gladly welcomes the acquittal of the eight innocent Christians."