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Murderer of Australian Missionary in India Given Lighter Sentence

The High Court in Orissa, India has overturned a death sentence imposed on Dara Singh and has released another 7 men during an Appeal Court hearing on May 19th.
( [email protected] ) May 23, 2005 05:23 AM EDT

The High Court in Orissa, India has overturned a death sentence imposed on Dara Singh and has released another 7 men during an Appeal Court hearing on May 19th.

In September last year 13 men were found guilty of slaying, and were given life sentences. One of them, a Hindu extremists, Dara Singh was sentenced to death of murdering an Australian missionary and his two sons.

Graham Staines and his two sons, Timothy, 10 and Phillip, 8, in January 1999 were burnt to death in Eastern India as they slept in their vehicle outside a church. The missionary and his sons tried to escape but the crowd of Hindu fanatics, prevented them.

The trial lasted for two and a half years, and during the appeal court trial, judges Chief Justice Sujit Burman and Justice Lakshmi Kant Mahapatara reduced Singh's death sentence and ordered the release of seven others for a lack of evidence.

The public prosecutor said, "Because of the climate of fear that existed in Orissa at that time [year 1999] we did not have enough witnesses. The high court judgment cannot be said to be totally unjustified."

Staines's brother John said yesterday he believed God would judge Singh. "I don't want to see the man put to death," John Staines said in Beaudesert, south of Brisbane. "He has one judge and that is God and God is righteous."

John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union said upon the decision, "It is really a shock. The church has never been a supporter of capital punishment but I am concerned about the legal process in India."

The law ministry will decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.