Seven acquitted in Staines case freed from jail

Seven of the 11 accused acquitted by an Indian court last week in the 1999 murder of a Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were released from jail in Orissa yesterday.

The website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India reports that the seven people were released from Choudwar jail in Khurda district following their acquittal by the Orissa High Court last Thursday.

According to their lawyer, the seven maintain their innocence, and plan to visit the Jagannath temple before "beginning with their lives again" after five and a half years' imprisonment.

An Orissa High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Sujit Berman Roy had commuted the death sentence on main accused Dara Singh to life imprisonment. It had upheld the life sentence of another accused Mahendra Hembram. It, however, acquitted the 11 other accused in the case who had been earlier given life imprisonment by a lower court.

Staines and his sons, Philip and Timothy, were torched to death while they were sleeping in a van at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district, on 22 January 1999.

The Central Bureau of Investigation charged 18 people, including Dara Singh, with the murders. Singh had been sentenced to death by Mahendranath Patnaik, the district and session judge of Khurda on 15 September 2003.

Seven acquitted in Staines' case freed from jail (Catholic Bishops Conference of India 24/5/05)

Indian State Pressured to Fire Christians (Zenit 23/5/05)
Murderer of a missionary in Orissa gets milder sentence (AsiaNews.it 21/5/05)
Man convicted of Australians' murders gets sentence reduced to life (Catholic News Service 20/5/05)
Supreme Court Of India Must Review Release Of Staines' Killers: AICU President (Catholic Bishops Conference of India 20/5/05)
Staines Murder: Orissa High Court Commutes Dara's Death Sentence To Life-term (Catholic Bishops Conference of India 20/5/05)
Indian churches question reprieve for killer of Baptist missionary (Ecumenical News International 20/5/05)

25 May 2005