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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 01:22 GMT 02:22 UK
9/11 revenge killer faces death
Relatives of  Balbir Singh Sodhi
Sodhi's family denounced hate crimes
A US jury has sentenced a man to death for murdering a Sikh, whom he mistook for an Arab, in revenge for the 11 September attacks.

Frank Silva Roque's lawyers had tried to claim he was insane when he shot Indian immigrant Balbir Singh Sodhi.

The murder took place in an Arizona petrol station just four days after the attacks, blamed on Muslim extremists.

Hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs surged in the US in the wake of 9/11.

Shooting spree

Roque, aged 44, gunned down the father of three in front of the petrol station that he owned in the town of Mesa on 15 September 2001.

The murder was part of a spree of racially motivated violence in which having killed Sodhi, Roque then fired shots at another petrol station, where a man of Lebanese descent was working, and then at a house inhabited by an Afghan family.

Roque's defence lawyers had argued that he was insane at the time of the murder, rendering him incapable of telling right from wrong, and had suffered from mental illness his entire life.

They claimed that their client had never used racial slurs prior to the attacks in Washington and New York.

Target practice

However, the prosecution argued that Roque had mistaken the turbaned Sodhi for a Muslim and subsequently acted out of hatred and a desire for revenge, not insanity.

Lawyer Vince Imbordino drew particular attention to the pre-meditated nature of the crime, saying that Roque had practised shooting and reloading before killing Sodhi.

Hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims in the US increased by 1,700% in 2001, according to crime statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In 2000, the FBI received reports of 28 hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs in the US. In 2001, that number increased to 481.

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