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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
'Militant zeal' drove missionary killer
Jeep in which Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt alive
The Staines were burnt alive
An Indian man sentenced to die for killing an Australian missionary wanted to "bury" Christianity, the judge who handed out the penalty has said.

Twelve others received life imprisonment on Monday for burning the missionary Graham Staines alive, along with his sons - Philip, who was 10, and Timothy, eight, in 1999.

A court found the defendants guilty last week of rioting, arson and culpable homicide amounting to murder.

The death penalty is used rarely in India and is reserved for the most serious crimes.

He formed a militant group... to physically liquidate Staines in the belief that with Staines the spread of Christianity will be buried
Judge Mahendra Pattnaik
Judge Pattnaik said the attack on the Staines demonstrated that "humanity is not fully civilised".

"A crime has no religion. What sin [had] the two small boys committed?" the judge said in his written judgement released overnight.

Militant group

Dara Singh, the main accused who received the death penalty, is said to have led a militant campaign against Christians and Muslims, although an investigation said there was no evidence that hardline Hindu groups had organised the attack on the Staines.

"He formed a militant group of local tribals to physically liquidate Staines in the belief that with Staines the spread of Christianity will be buried in the area.

"The rest of the convicts who are gullible tribals blindly followed him," the judge said.

The death sentence has to be confirmed by higher courts, but Singh is not planning to appeal.

"Singh says he will prefer to be hanged rather than go in for an appeal," defence lawyer Bana Mohanty said.

Defendants have the right to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court and can then ask for a presidential pardon.

Forgiven

Mr Staines had spent 30 years working with leprosy patients in Orissa.

His widow, Gladys, still lives in India, continuing the work, and says she has forgiven the killers.

Indian Ravindra Pal alias Dara Singh arrives at a special court in Bhubaneshwar
Dara Singh: Not planning to appeal
"But forgiveness and the consequences of the crime should not be mixed up... No individual is above the law of the land," she said in a statement after sentenced was passed.

The missionary's brother, John Staines, had argued against a death sentence, fearing it would stir up more extremism.

"They committed a terrible crime, but the sort of thing that Jesus Christ espoused was that if we can't forgive our fellow men then how can he forgive us," he said in Melbourne, Australia.

The Staines died when the jeep they were sleeping in was torched outside a church in the remote village of Manoharpur in Orissa in January 1999.

The killings sparked condemnation in India and around the world.




SEE ALSO:
Widow keeps missionary's memory alive
22 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Fears for India's secularism
06 Jun 03  |  South Asia
Hindu groups 'did not kill missionary'
06 Aug 99  |  South Asia
India and the death penalty
18 Dec 02  |  South Asia
India under fire over Christian rights
30 Sep 99  |  South Asia
Fire mob kills missionary
23 Jan 99  |  South Asia
Country Profile: India
08 Jul 03  |  Country profiles


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