A 13-year-old boy has been sentenced to 14 years in custody for his part in the horrific murder of Australian missionary Graham Stewart Staines and his two young sons in the state of Orissa in eastern India in January last year.

Sudarshan Hansda alias Chenchu, sentenced on September 30 at the Juvenile Court at Bhubaneswar, capital of Orissa, is the youngest of 17 people charged in connection with the murder of the Baptist missionary and his two sons Philip, 10, and Timothy, 8, on the night of January 22, 1999. Chenchu was found guilty of murder, unlawful assembly, and other charges. Another 16 people, all adults, will go on trial for murder and related charges in December.

According to the prosecution, the killers set fire to a van in which Graham Staines and his sons were sleeping in the remote village of Manoharpur. Police claim the "mob" was led by Rabindra Pal Singh alias Dara Singh, who is among those to be tried in December.

Staines was in the village to minister to Christians in the area, most of whose inhabitants are tribal people.

Asked by ENI for comment on the sentence, Solomon Soren, an official from the Leprosy Home in Baripada, in Orissa, which was founded by Staines and managed by him for 32 years, said: "We are not bothered about it. We have forgiven them right at the beginning."

ENI was unable to contact Gladys Staines, the missionary's widow, as she is temporarily in Australia. Staines is planning to construct a 40-bed leprosy hospital at Baripada, a project that her husband had long hoped to implement.

Within days of the murders, police arrested 51 people allegedly linked to a Hindu fundamentalist group, Bajrang Dal. But the High Court in Orissa threw out charges against 44 of the accused two months after the ...

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