An Indian man sentenced to die for killing an Australian missionary wanted to "bury" Christianity, the judge who handed out the penalty has said.
The Staines were burnt alive
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
Dara Singh: Not planning to appeal
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.