Sunday, November 20, 2005

'Police guilty' in Punjab killing

'Police guilty' in Punjab killing
By Asit Jolly
BBC News, Chandigarh

Six policemen in the north Indian state of Punjab have been convicted of abducting and killing a leading human rights activist.
Jaswant Singh Khalra exposed what he said were widespread rights abuses and extrajudicial killings of Sikh separatists by police in the 1990s.
He disappeared after being abducted from his home in the city of Amritsar in September 1995.
Two policemen were jailed for life and four others for five years each.
Analysts said Friday's verdict was significant because it was the first acknowledgement that the Indian state had turned a blind eye to violations committed in the name of combating Sikh separatists.
Appeal considered
The court in Patiala convicted the men despite the fact the body of Khalra was never found.
Colleagues and prominent international human rights organisations had alleged that Khalra was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by police.
The investigation was handed over to the federal Central Bureau of Investigation following petitions from the missing activist's wife.
Two policemen were given life imprisonment on separate counts of murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy.
Four junior police personnel were sentenced to five years and fined 5,000 rupees ($110).
Two other accused policemen died during the course of the long trial.
Khalra's wife, Paramjit Kaur, welcomed the verdicts but said the trial had been "inordinately delayed" and the sentences were too lenient.
She said she would consult her lawyers before deciding on an appeal for stronger sentences.
She reiterated her demand that former Punjab police chief KPS Gill also be tried.

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