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Indian Church hails court judgments in nuns rape case

Ten of the 25 men accused of the 1998 rape and robbery of nuns in a convent have been sentenced to life in prison, in a judgment welcomed by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.

In the judgment delivered on 28 April, the District Court of Jhabua also imposed two to three year prison terms on seven other accused of looting at the convent in Navapada, in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.

Archbishop Oswald Gracias, secretary-general of the bishops' conference, said last week that the judgment had increased the faith of the people in the country's judicial system and its moral stature.

Bishop George Anathil of Indore, whose area includes Jhabua, said justice has been done to the nuns who were victims of the heinous attack. The nuns are now working in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The bishop noted that none of the accused in the rape case was a Christian. "Vested interests had been proclaiming time and again that half of the accused were Christians," he said.

The incident, which took place in September 1998, involved the rape and robbery of the Sisters of Preetisaran Seva Kendra in Jhabua. The Church and various organisations protested against the incident and the police arrested suspects within two days.