09/23/2009, 00.00
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Orissa: for the first time, sentenced to life imprisonment for anti-Christian pogrom

by Ajay Kumar Singh
Five Hindu youth guilty of the murder of Akbar Digal, a Baptist pastor. The Catholic bishop of Bhubaneshwar hopes that the ruling “does not hold back the witnesses, and they should testify to the truth in spite of the threats”. Up to date the court of Bhubaneshwar has condemned 19 persons releasing 88.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) First sentence to life imprisonment for 5 youths, accused in the trials regarding the anti-Christian violence’s in Orissa. Today the court of Kandhamal, passed the ruling for life for Papu Pradhan (30), Sabito Pradhan (30), Dharmaraj (32), Mania Pradhan (28) and Abhinas Pradhan (29). The five have been declared guilty for the murder of Akbar  Digal, a Baptist pastor and forced to pay a fine of 5 thousand rupees (around 120 dollars) for arson, looting and burning houses.

It is the third trial for a case of murder. The previous two involved amongst other people, Manoj Pradhan, member of Parliament in Orissa for the Hindu party Bharatiya Janata Party, but were closed with the acquittal on all grounds of the accused of the murder.

Akbar Digal, 40 years old, was the pastor of the Protestant community in the village of Totomaha, part of the Gram Panchayat of Mandakia in the agglomeration of Riakia. On the 26th of September 2009, during the attacks by the Hindu extremists he sought refuge in the fields whilst his wife with their five children escaped in the opposite direction. The attackers, decided to reach their prey at all costs, they searched the pastor house to house looting and burning them. Despite having hidden in the fields he was not able to escape the extremists. Once they captured him they forced him to abandon Christianity and convert to Hinduism. When he refused they decapitated him and cut his body into pieces. Once the extremists left the village, his wife found his body burnt and in torn to pieces.

The news of the sentence regarding the assassins  renewed the hope in justice of the Christian community of Kandhamal  . Jay Prakash, 46 years, brother of Akbar says ”we are pleased that the judges bought justice to the soul of our brother. These barbaric attacks call for severe punishments for the assassins.” Bulgan Digal, 48 years and  older brother of the victim tells “ When I read about the guilty being acquitted on the newspapers, I lose all hope for us. This ruling will help the witnesses of these violence’s to be more courageous, bring back faith to the victims in the justice in Kandhamal  and be a deterrent to repeat such brutal acts for the criminals in the future.

The sentence of the five coincides with the acquittal of other five in another case for arson and violence against Christian closed today in the court of Bhubaneshwar. Up to date the two courts that are examining the cases related to the pogrom put in prison 19 persons and released 88.

Mons. Raphael Cheenath, archibishop of Cuttack- Bhubaneshwar, was satisfied with the verdict. The prelate hopes that this does not hold back the witnesses, and they should testify to the truth in spite of the   threats”, but does not hide the fact that “he is worried for the many acquittal of the accused in terrible crimes and murders” and once again asks for “strict investigations and protection of the witnesses”.

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See also
Anti-Christian violence like “man-made tsunami,” says Cardinal Toppo
Father Bernard’s funeral in Orissa, Christ’s triumph over death
Orissa government cuts death toll from anti-Christian pogrom
Orissa: Christians in refugee camps vote but they are just a minority of all displaces people
Orissa bishop calls for postponement of election


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