Catholic World News

India's Cardinal Gracias backs petition drive for new trial of Christians convicted during 2008 mob violence

March 16, 2016

Cardinal Oswald Gracias has thrown his support behind a petition campaign for the release of seven Christians who were convicted, in a hasty trial, for the 2008 murder of a prominent Hindu leader in the remote Kandhamal region.

When Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a Hindu nationalist who had preached against Christian influence, was killed, his followers quickly attributed the crime to Christians. (Later, evidence emerged that the Hindu leader was actually killed by radical Maoists.) The result was a burst of anti-Christian violence by Hindu mobs, in which over 100 people were killed and 50,000 driven from their homes. 

In a rush to satisfy the Hindu activists' cries for justice after the murder, seven Christians were brought to trial and convicted. The petition seeking their release notes that no substantial evidence was introduced against them. Journalist Anto Akkara [a sometime CWN contributor] has found local police officials who now testify that the allegations against the convicted men were false.

The petition endorsed by Cardinal Gracias calls upon India's leaders to arrange a new trial for the convicted men, in circumstances that will allow a full and fair presentation of the evidence. 

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