Tuesday, September 16, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Dara, 12 others convicted for killing Staines
Sentence on September 22

Bhubaneswar, September 15
A Khurda Sessions Court today pronounced Dara Singh and 12 others guilty of burning alive Australian Missionary Graham Stewart Staines and his two sons Phillips (11) and Timothy (7) in the Keonjhar forests four years ago. District and Sessions Judge Mahendra Nath Pattnaik would deliver the sentence on September 22.

Staines and his two sons were burnt alive while they were asleep in their vehicle on the night of January 22, 1999, at Manoharpur village in Orissa’s Keonjhar district, where they had gone to attend an annual jungle camp. All 13 accused were found guilty of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, rioting with deadly weapons, arson, mischief using fire and other explosive substances and murder.

The Judge, however, acquitted Anirudh Dandpat alias Andha Nayak due to lack of substantial evidence against him.

There was high security in the jam-packed court room where the judge delivered the verdict in the 28-month trial.

The 13 convicted in the Staines murder case were Dara Singh, Rajat Kumar Das, Mahendra Hembram, Renta Hembram, Ozen Hansda, Kartik Luhar, Rabi Soren, Dayanidhi Patra, Mahadev Mahant, Harish Mahant, Thuram Ho, Surath Nayak and Umakanta Bhoi.

Bhoi, who was earlier released on bail by a lower court in the case, was immediately taken into judicial custody and sent to jail along with the other accused. The accused, except Dayanidhi Patra, were taken to Chowdar Circle jail, about 45 km from here under tight security after the judgement.

Mr Dayanidhi Patra, who had been kept isolated from Dara Singh on security ground for revealing Dara’s role in torching Staines’ vehicle before the trial court during deposition, was sent to Bhubaneswar Special Jail.

They were all convicted under Sections 120, 120(b) 148, 435, 436, 149 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Ms Gladys June Staines, the widow of Graham Stewart Staines, residing in Baripada in Mayurbhanj district said the judiciary had discharged its duty faithfully and efficiently.

Reacting to the judgement by the CBI designated court in Bhubaneswar in the murder case, Ms Gladys said, “forgiveness is the process of healing”, which she had already given, she added.

“Now the law of the land has to do its part,” she said, but refused to comment when asked whether she was satisfied with the judgement.

The trial of the case took almost 28 months and 18 days with 117 hearings since March 1,2001. As many as 80 witnesses, 55 of them prosecution and the rest 25 defence witnesses, deposed before the trial court in the case.

Dara Singh’s counsel Bana Mohanty while expressing dissatisfaction over the judgement, said they would move the High Court and if possible the Court against the verdict. On the other hand CBI counsel K Sudhakar said he was satisfied with the judgement, pronounced by the trial court.

CBI counsel termed the verdict as a “victory” for them.

A diplomat of the Australian High Commission in India, Mr Mark Webslor, who was present in the court, also expressed his satisfaction over the judgement.

“The Australian government had taken keen interest in the case and I have come here on behalf of the High Commission. I came to hear the verdict and accordingly will intimate the Australian government”, he said.

The CBI had chargesheeted 18 persons in the case of whom three - Ghanashyam Mahanta, Ramajan Mahanta and Budhi Nayak - were still absconding. A juvenile accused, Chenchu Hansda, had already been convicted in a juvenile court and sent to a probation home.

Dara, who is facing trial in two other major cases in Mayurbhanj district — murder of a Catholic priest Arul Doss at Jamubani village on September 1, 1999, and slaying of Shaikh Rehman, a Muslim trader, in the Padiabeda weekly market in the last week of August 1999, was absconding for over a year after the Manoharpur incident.

However, he was nabbed in a forest in the same district on January 31, 2000.

After the CBI took over the investigation from the state Crime branch, charges were framed against the accused persons on September 4, 2000.

The trial commenced in the designated CBI court on March 1, 2001.

The case, which according to legal experts would go down in the state’s judicial history as one of the longest, had attracted international attention. — Agencies

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