South Asia

Politician jailed for seven years over India riots

Image caption More than 25,000 Christians were made homeless after the violence

A politician has been sentenced to seven years in prison in a case related to anti-Christian riots which rocked an eastern Indian state.

Manoj Pradhan, a legislator with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, was charged with murder but convicted of "fatal attack" and arson.

Pradhan's accomplice in the crime was also convicted and handed the same punishment by an Indian court.

The violence in Kandhamal district left at least 40 people dead.

The August 2008 riots followed the killing of a Hindu religious leader, who had urged Christian converts to return to Hinduism, and four others.

Police blamed Maoist guerrillas for the killing, but Hindu militants turned on local Christians.

The case against Pradhan focused on the death of Parikshit Digal, one of those killed in the rioting.

High Court appeal

In his judgement on Tuesday, judge Shovan Kumar Das of Phulbani fast-track court sentenced Pradhan to seven years of "rigorous imprisonment".

He was also ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 Indian rupees ($108; £72). Failure to pay would mean a further six months in jail.

Although Pradhan was charged with murder under Section 302 of the Indian penal code, he was convicted only for fatal attack and arson.

An accomplice, Prafulla Mallick, was also convicted and handed the same punishment.

Pradhan's lawyer, Ajit Kumar Patnaik, told the BBC from Phulbani, the district headquarters of Kandhamal, that his client would appeal against the judgement in the High Court.

He said he was hopeful that the court would overturn Tuesday's verdict.

Pradhan has been charged in as many as 14 cases of rioting and murder. He has, however, been acquitted in seven of them while six more are yet to be tried.

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