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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 November, 2004, 16:48 GMT
Torture claim in Hindu seer case
Saraswathi flanked by security guards at a magistrates' court in Kanchipuram
The cleric is currently being held in judicial custody
One of the men arrested in a murder case in southern India involving a leading Hindu cleric says police tortured him to implicate the seer.

Cleric Jayendra Saraswathi is in custody charged with murdering a worker at the temple he heads in Tamil Nadu.

But in a dramatic twist, one of the 15 people arrested in connection with the case says he was tortured into making statements against Mr Saraswathi.

The murder charge has outraged many of the cleric's followers.

There has been no police reaction yet to the allegations made by Kadhiravan, 36.

Mr Saraswathi denies he had anything to do with the killing of former employee, Sankararaman, who was a strong critic of the religious leader.

Second charge

On Tuesday, Mr Saraswathi was also accused of ordering an attack on a former devotee in September 2002.

An arrest warrant for the fresh charge was issued to him in prison in the town of Vellore.

Jayendra Saraswathi

Police have already questioned Mr Saraswathi for three days over the killing of the temple worker, but the seer has been returned to judicial custody, where the police have limited access to him.

The police said they needed more time to question the cleric because they had been unable to examine the finances of the Kanchi Shankara Mutt, the influential religious establishment headed by Mr Saraswathi.

But a court in the town of Kanchipuram rejected their petition.

Mr Saraswathi heads one of five seats of Hinduism.

His supporters have launched hunger strikes and taken part in violent protests across the country.

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