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Missionary killers convicted

Sep. 15, 2003 • Monday September 15, 2003

The main accused in the murder of an Australian missionary, Graham Staines, and his two young sons has been found guilty in an Indian court.

Dara Singh and 12 others were convicted at a special court in the eastern state of Orissa. Another person was let off for lack of evidence.

The men stood trial on charges of burning Mr Staines alive, along with the sons – Philip, who was 10, and Timothy, eight.

Judge Mahendranath Patnaik said the sentence will be passed on 22 September.

The men could receive the death penalty.

Sentence will be passed on 22 September.

Jeep torched

The Staines died when the jeep they were sleeping in was torched outside a church in the remote village of Manoharpur in Orissa in January 1999.

The killings sparked condemnation in India and around the world.

Right-wing Hindus who complained that Hindus were being pressured to convert to Christianity were blamed at the time of the attack.

However, an official inquiry into the attack said there was no evidence organised Hindu groups were behind it.

Two years ago, a boy, Sudershan Hansda, was convicted in relation to the killings and sentenced to seven years in a juvenile home.

In a recent interview, Gladys Staines, the widow of the dead missionary, said she forgave her husband’s killers.

“The Bible teaches us that we are to forgive others. I realised that if we don’t forgive, we let bitterness come into our own lives,” the Associated Press quoted her as saying.

‘Sufficient evidence’

The accused men have been on trial for the past two-and-a-half years.

In his final statement at the closing of the trial, their lawyer, Bramhananda Panda, said: “All of them were innocent and should be set free.”

But prosecutor Sudhakar Rao said “all [the defendants] were involved in the crime” and there was sufficient evidence to prove this.

Dara Singh is also accused of organising attacks on a Muslim businessman and Roman Catholic priest after the Staines were killed.

Police believe villagers helped him hide for a year out of sympathy with his campaign against Muslims and Christians.

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