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The Indian Christian community is "greatly disappointed" over the May 19 Orissa high court's decision to commute the death penalty for Dara Singh, who had been sentenced for the murders of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons. The court cited "tainted evidence" and also acquitted another 11 people who were accused of taking part in burning the three alive in January 1999. Seven were freed yesterday.

Graham Staines and his two sons, Phillip, 11, and Timothy, 7, were burnt to death by a mob while they were asleep inside their station wagon at Manoharpur village in Orissa, a region where Christians make up 2 percent of the population. The attacks occurred after an annual Christian gathering for fellowship and teaching. In September 2003, the trial court had sentenced Singh to death and 11 others to life imprisonment.

Although, Gladys Staines, the wife of Graham Staines, had publicly forgiven Singh, a Hindu extremist, for her husband and young children's murders, this recent judgment has come as a shock to Christians who have continued to demand justice and security.

The Christian minority, which makes up 2.4 percent of India's population according to Operation World, has lately suffered numerous attacks from Hindu radicals. Church leaders met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and presented him an unofficial white paper recording more than 200 recent cases of violence against Christians.

Christians are upset over the state's inability to bring justice to the culprits. While Singh, the leader of the mob that murdered Staines, has become a symbol of Hindu radicals' growing intolerance toward Christians and minorities, Christians have also questioned why the other 11 convicted were set free. Still, Singh remains ...

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May 2005

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