A Hindu fanatic sentenced to death for killing an Australian Christian missionary and his two young sons has appealed against his conviction.
On September 15, a court in the eastern Indian state of Orissa found Dara Singh and 12 others guilty of burning to death missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Orissa in January 1999.
A week later, Judge Mahendra Nath Patnaik ordered Singh to the gallows because the murder case was “the rarest of rare.”
Staines was a 57-year old Baptist missionary, who had worked in India since 1965, treating leprosy patients.
On January 23, 1999, Singh – described as an activist against religious conversion - led a mob which surrounded Staines’ station wagon in the remote village of Manoharpur, as the missionary and his children slept inside.
The crowd chanted anti-Christian slogans and blocked the Australians’ escape by brandishing axes before torching the car, burning to death Staines and his sons Philip, 8, and Timothy, 10.
Singh’s petition, filed in the Orissa High Court on Friday, said investigations into the case were “biased and perfunctory” in nature. He said there were several discrepancies in the statements of eyewitnesses and extra judicial confessions were “not true and voluntary”.
Singh also alleged that witnesses were “tutored” and “influenced” while in police custody.
The court heard Singh had formed a group of local tribesmen to kill Staines in order to stop the spread of Christianity. The other 12 who were convicted were sentenced to life in prison but spared the gallows because the court ruled they were manipulated by Singh.
Singh, whose real name is Ravinda Pal, was arrested in Orissa’s forests a year after the Staines murders.