Bhubaneswar, Oct 3 IANS | 2 years ago

A court in Odisha Thursday sentenced eight people, including a Maoist, to life in prison for the 2008 murder of a Hindu leader and four of his aides, a lawyer said.

The special additional district sessions court in Phulbani, the headquarters of Kandhamal district, about 200 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, also imposed a fine of Rs.10,000 on each of them, prosecution lawyer Ramesh Mohanty told IANS.

Those awarded the jail term and fine are Duryodhan Suna Majhi, Munda Bada Majhi, Sanatan Bada Majhi, Garnatha Chalanseth, Bijay Kumar Samseth, Bhaskar Suna Majhi, Budhadev Nayak and Pulari Rama Rao alias Uday.

Pulari Rama Rao alias Uday was a Maoist leader, the lawyer said.

The same court pronounced Rama Rao guilty Oct 1 while it convicted others a day earlier.

Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati Shradhanjali Samiti, an organisation linked to right wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), said they welcomed the judgment but the real justice would be done only after those behind the crime were arrested.

The police in October 2008 said one group conspired and engaged another group for executing the killings.

Though few murderers have been nabbed and convicted, the main culprits are still at large, Samiti secretary Laxmidhar Das said.

Another organisation, Campaign Against Fabricated Cases said seven of the convicted were innocents and framed by the government. "They were convicted with the help of fake witnesses," convenor Narendra Mohanty said.

"Our organisation will fight for justice and help them appeal in higher court," he said in a statement.

Unidentified gunmen Aug 23, 2008 killed VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and his four aides in their Jaleshpata ashram of Kandhamal district.

Police said five accused, including Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, are still at large.

The convicts said they committed the crime, as according to them, Saraswati was forcing Christians to convert to Hinduism.

The killings triggered communal violence in the state, in which at least 38 people lost their lives.

(Posted on 03-10-2013)