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Orissa: convictions, acquittals in gang rape of nun

Catholic World News - March 14, 2014

Three men have been convicted and six have been acquitted in the 2008 gang rape of a nun in Kandhamal, a province of the state of Orissa, Agence France-Presse reported.

The nine defendants were members of a mob of about 50 men who raped the nun, Sister Meena Barwa, and paraded her semi-naked through the streets, along with a Catholic priest, Father Thomas Chellan; both were also beaten during the episode. Police made no effort to intervene during the incident, and authorities in Orissa pressed charges against only a few of those involved. The six acquittals were due to lack of evidence.

Mitu Patnaik (alias Santosh Patnaik), the accused leader of the mob, was sentenced to 11 years in prison; Gajendra Digal and Saroj Badhei received 26-month sentences. The rape victim, who went to New Delhi after her ordeal, told a news conference there that she was frightened to return to Kandhamal to testify, and appealed for federal intervention to assure a serious investigation. The trial was eventually moved out of the Kandhamal district.

Orissa, an eastern Indian state that has since been renamed Odisha, was the site of massive anti-Christian violence that left over 50 dead and 50,000 homeless.

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