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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Missionary killer's sentence cut
Indian Ravindra Pal alias Dara Singh arrives at a special court in Bhubaneshwar
It is not clear why Dara Singh's (centre) sentence was commuted
An Indian court has commuted a death sentence handed down to a man convicted of murdering an Australian missionary and his two young sons.

The man, Dara Singh, has now been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The court also released 11 out of 12 others who had received life sentences for the killings.

Graham Staines and his two sons - Philip, who was 10, and Timothy, eight - were burned alive in 1999 in a remote village in eastern India.

'Individual act'

The killings were widely condemned in India and across the world.

After a lengthy trial, 13 people were convicted of their murder in September 2003.

But in a ruling on Thursday, the court said there was no evidence to suggest that it was the individual act of Dara Singh which was responsible for the death of Mr Staines and his sons.

The court said that the charges against 11 out of 12 other people who were found guilty with Mr Singh have not been proven beyond doubt, and ordered their release.

Mr Staines had spent 30 years working with leprosy patients in Orissa. His widow, Gladys, remained in India until July 2004.

She returned to the country earlier this year to receive a Padma Shri, an Indian national honour for her work with leprosy patients.

Mrs Staines refused to comment on the latest ruling, but said earlier that she had forgiven the killers of her husband and children.

"I feel sorry for them in a sense - that they should actually do something like this," she told the BBC.

John Staines - the brother of Graham - told the Reuters news agency in Brisbane on Thursday that he had opposed the death penalty for Singh.

"I didn't want to see Dara Singh executed. As far as the others being acquitted, there is one true judge and that is God.

"No matter what we do in this life if we don't fulfil the things that God wants us to fulfil, or if we go against his word, then the punishment comes at the end."

Right-wing Hindus who complained that Hindus were being pressured to convert to Christianity were blamed at the time of the attack.

However, an official inquiry into the attack said there was no evidence organised Hindu groups were behind it.

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