India’s Supreme Court has granted bail to a man falsely accused of murdering a Hindu leader some ten years ago. Gornath Chalenseth was finally released from prison May 9 after spending over a decade behind bars.
Chalenseth, along with Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Bijay Kumar Sanseth, Budhadeb Nayak, Durjo Sunamajhi, Munda Badamajhi and Sanathan Badamajhi was jailed after being convicted of murdering Hindu monk Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four others in August 2008.
Saraswati’s death sparked a massive backlash of anti-Christian violence, resulting in the deaths of several believers and the burning down of around 8,400 homes and 360 churches. As is often seen in these types of religiously-charged criminal cases across India, the men were convicted on the basis of fabricated evidence.
Unfortunately, despite being released on bail, Chalenseth is still not out of danger. He will now face an appeal that will determine whether or not he spends the rest of their life in prison, or worse.
Still, according to a lawyer representing the men, bail is still a welcome reprieve.
“It is a huge victory for these hapless men who don’t have the resources or knowledge to fight for their freedom in India’s complicated judicial system,” said attorney Dibakar Parichha, according to ucanews.com.
A journalist who has been relentlessly campaigning for the release of the men described the bail order has a “landmark and huge victory in the fight for justice for Kandhamal’s seven innocents,” according to Matters India.
Anto Akkara hopes that the granting of bail “will be the first step towards acquittal of the innocent Christians languishing in jail for a decade for a crime they never committed.”
Alliance Defending Freedom have also been assisting in the case, with an official from the group saying that they were encouraged by granting of bail.
The court “does not seem to be taking up the appeal anytime soon,” the official added. “Although it is quite late, justice is still prevailing.”
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