22 Jan 2011

Prison sentence upheld by Supreme Court

6:44 am on 22 January 2011

The Indian Supreme Court has upheld a sentence of life imprisonment for a man convicted of killing a Christian missionary and his two sons in 1999.

Prosecutors argued that Dara Singh should face death - the sentence originally awarded by a lower court.

Australian Graham Staines and his sons were burned alive by a mob in a village in the eastern state of Orissa, where he worked with leprosy patients.

Hindu groups had accused him of forcibly converting poor Hindus.

The two judges ruled that a death sentence would not be appropriate and called for religious tolerance and understanding.

The BBC reports Mr Staines had spent 30 years working with leprosy patients in Orissa. His sons were aged eight and 10 at the time of their murder.

After a lengthy trial Singh and 12 others were convicted in 2003. But a High Court in Orissa commuted his death sentence two years later.

It also freed 11 others given life sentences in prison, saying there was not enough evidence to support their convictions.