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Petition launched calling for release of seven imprisoned Christians in india

The men were arrested in 2008 and have been held without trial since

By: International Christian Concern
Thursday, 29 August 2013, 20:59 (EST)
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On Monday, International Christian Concern (ICC), a Washington D.C. based non-profit that assists religious minorities facing discrimination for their faith, launched a petition calling for the release of seven imprisoned Christians in Orissa, India.

The petition letter is addressed to India's Ambassador to the United States and calls on the Indian government to ensure the "speedy release" of the seven prisoners. It can be found on ICC's website and will be available for signing until September 15th.

According to the petition letter, all seven Christians were arrested in the Kandhamal District of Orissa, India, in 2008 following the murder of Laxmanananda Saraswati, a Hindu religious and political leader. Saraswati's murder was blamed on the Christian minority of Kandhamal and sparked violent protests that led to the murder of 38 people and left an estimated 54,000 homeless.

On September 9th, 2008, the Communist Party of India, a violent Maoist group, claimed responsibility for the murder of Saraswati. Members of this group were later arrested and charged with the murder; however, authorities refused to release the seven Christians, who have remained in detention without trial for nearly five years.

The petition letter goes on to explain that an ICC investigation found little evidence the seven Christians had any relationship prior to their arrest and seemed to have been arrested at random.

The lack of evidence against the seven was also confirmed by an Indian High Court which ruled there was "insufficient material evidence" against the Christians and that the "Fast-Track Court #2," one of the courts set up to process cases after the 2008 protests, should conclude the trial in a "speedy manner."

According to ICC, the Christians are innocent and remain in detention for "political motives" to appease radical Hindu groups. The petition letter concludes, "All seven individuals have wives and children who have been left to provide for themselves as their fathers and husbands await a trial which has never come for a crime they did not commit. Sectarian prejudice and religiously-based discrimination should not be allowed to dictate the fate of seven innocent men. Their speedy release will help signal to the world that India is sincere both in its application of the rule of law and the promotion of religious freedom for all of its 1.2 billion citizens."

Isaac Six, International Christian Concern's Advocacy Manager, said, "I believe the government of India sincerely desires to promote religious freedom for all of its citizens. As an acceder to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, India has pledged to protect the right to freedom of 'thought, conscience, and religion.' Unfortunately, the five-year detention of these seven Christians for a crime they did not commit is intricately tied to their religious identity. Any further delay in their release would only prolong the tragedy their families have undergone these last five years. I sincerely hope this petition raises awareness of their plight and compels the government of India to act quickly."



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