Court clears six of killing Britons in India riots

27th February 2015, Comments 0 comments

A court in India on Friday cleared six men of murdering four people including three British nationals during 2002 religious riots in the prime minister's home state of Gujarat.

At least 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, were killed in a frenzy of communal violence in 2002 in the western state where Narendra Modi was chief minister before he was elected prime minister last year.

The three British nationals were burned alive when a mob torched their car as they drove into Gujarat from the adjacent state of Rajasthan during the bloodshed, some of the worst religious violence to hit India since independence from Britain in 1947.

"Special judge I.C. Shah today pronounced the verdict in open court, where he acquitted all six accused in the case," public prosecutor R.C. Kodekar told AFP after Friday's verdict.

The reason for the acquittal was not immediately made clear.

The case was investigated by a team specially appointed by India's Supreme Court in 2008 to look into the riots. More than 130 people have been given life sentences as a result.

The latest trial took five years to complete, partly because of the need to take evidence by video link from two former British diplomats to India who visited the scene of the murders.

The riots were triggered by the deaths of nearly 60 Hindu pilgrims in a train that was allegedly torched by a Muslim mob, sparking an anti-Muslim backlash.

Modi was effectively blacklisted by a number of foreign powers in the aftermath of the riots, which happened shortly after he took over as the state's chief minister.

The European Union and then the United States only ended their boycott of the right-wing Hindu nationalist when it became clear he could be elected leader of the world's largest democracy.

© 2015 AFP

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