50,000 sign petition for the release of 7 innocent Christians imprisoned for 10 years
An online signature campaign demanding the release of seven innocent Christians who have been in prison since 2008 has collected over 50,000 signatures. Each online signature generates three automatic e-mails to the President of the Supreme Court of India, the President of India and the President of the National Commission for Human Rights.
Christian journalist and activist Anto Akkara, who reported the bloodshed in Orissa ten years ago, started the online campaign www.release7innocents.com in March 2016. Akkara thanked all those who have joined him in asking for their release and is now calling for more signatures from institutions and civil rights societies. Akkara also revealed “the fraud and the parody of justice in Kandhamal” in his investigative book “Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?” Ten years after the massacre of Christians in the state of Orissa, seven innocent Christians from remote Kandhamal district in Odisha state are still languishing in jail. The seven Christians – six of them illiterate and one mentally challenged – were sentenced to life imprisonment for the mysterious murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on 23 August 2008.
Following the Hindu leader’s murder, Saraswati’s body was paraded across Kandhamal for two days and large numbers of Hindus – most of them illiterate – were incited to take revenge on Christians who were blamed for his death. In the ensuing violence that continued for weeks, over 100 Christians were massacred and 300 churches and 6,000 Christian houses plundered and set on fire. After two judges were transferred, a third judge of the trial court convicted the accused Christians and sentenced them to life imprisonment on the basis of a fabricated Christian conspiracy theory despite hardly any credible evidence brought before the court.
However, in 2015 two top police officials – who had relied upon the fabricated conspiracy theory to ensure the conviction of the accused Christian – testified before the Kandhamal judicial Inquiry commission that the allegations were false. It has now been established that Maoist guerrillas killed the Hindu leader. Yet the wrongly convicted Christians have not been released and the hearing on their appeal is still pending.