By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Indian court proceedings underway Monday, May 11, against men who were allegedly involved in gang raping a nun were overshadowed by indications that witnesses have been threatened not to accurately testify, trial observers said.
Investigators of advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) said five prosecution witnesses gave “compromised testimony” surrounding the case of Sister Meena, who was raped and paraded naked in the troubled Indian state of Orissa on August 25, last year.
“Lawyers for Sister Meena have reported that the next hearing for the case is scheduled for [Monday] May 11,” ICC said.
The widely published attack in Orissa’s Kandhamal district happened during anti-Christian violence in the region, which killed dozens of people.
Police later detained some 10 people, but ICC said it has learned that witnesses were reluctant to confirm the involvement of the suspects in the rape.
“Two witnesses, Prahalad Pradhan and his wife Chanchala, in whose house Sister Meena took shelter after the rape, did not confirm the incident. Prahalad said that the two were dragged from their house by a mob, but…Chanchala only admitted that the nun and a priest took shelter in their house and said she did not know anything else,” ICC told BosNewsLife.
Three other witnesses, Debendra Naik, Dhaneswar Mallick and Surendra Digal, reportedly stated they had no knowledge of the incident.
The Orissa High Court reportedly told the Government of Orissa and the suspects that the case would be transferred from Phulbani, where the incident occurred, to Cuttack, a major city, after Sister Meena said she and witnesses “are being threatened with dire consequences” if they appear at the Phulbani court.
“Due to the as yet unresolved pogrom against Christians that started in August 2008” following the killing of a Hindu leader, “Sister Meena is afraid that her life would be in danger at the local court and that she would not receive a fair trial,” ICC explained.
The rape of the 29-year-old nun created an uproar across India. (With Worthy News’ Stefan J. Bos).