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 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 17:20 GMT
Stabbed US preacher may face charges
Joseph Cooper in hospital
Police gave Mr Cooper seven days to leave India
An American missionary stabbed in southern India last week by a right-wing Hindu gang could face criminal charges after a Hindu nationalist filed a complaint.

The complaint called for the prosecution of Bishop Joseph Cooper, 68, over allegations that he denigrated Hindus.

Mr Cooper had, at a religious meeting, made derogatory remarks against the Hindu community, punishable under the Indian Penal Code

Complaint filed by K Sugathan
A magistrate's court in Trivandrum, capital of Kerala state, will decide on Wednesday whether to charge Mr Cooper.

Lawyers told the BBC the preacher could face up to three years in jail if found guilty.

The right-wing challenge was apparently aimed at preventing Mr Cooper from leaving for the US.

On Monday, police gave the preacher seven days to leave India.

Discharged

The complaint was filed by K Sugathan, a local leader of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a religious affiliate of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party.

It alleged that Mr Cooper had made derogatory remarks at a religious meeting against the Hindu community, punishable under the Indian penal code.

Mr Cooper, an ordained bishop of the New Jerusalem church from Pennsylvania, was discharged from a hospital in Trivandrum on Monday after undergoing surgery for a deep cut on his right hand.

He was then preparing to leave India in compliance with a police order which stated that his preaching had violated the terms of his tourist visa.

The texts of his sermons were not immediately available, but Mr Cooper has maintained he has done nothing wrong under the Indian constitution.

Hardliners arrested

The attack on Mr Cooper took place on the outskirts of Trivandrum on 13 January.

Eyewitnesses said he was surrounded by an armed gang of 10 people as he was returning from a gospel convention organised by the Protestant Friends of the Bible Church.

The gang reportedly attacked Mr Cooper and others with swords, sticks and iron bars.

A local pastor, his wife and two children and one other person were also injured.

Police have arrested 10 members of the hardline Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) over the attack.

The RSS denies involvement.

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