Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh sentenced to 10 years for rape | News

The leader of a sect in India has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for raping two of his followers in 2002.

A judge on Monday handed out the punishment to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, 50, in Rohtak town in Haryana, a northern state.

“The court has ordered 10-year jail term for the accused,” Ram Niwas, the senior bureaucrat in charge of law and order in Haryana, told Reuters news agency.

The decision came after Singh’s verdict was delivered on Friday, an announcement that led to deadly violence as his angry supporters rioted in the streets and clashed with security forces.

More than 30 people were killed, hundreds were injured and dozens were later arrested.

Police in Haryana issued orders to shoot protesters on sight ahead of the sentencing on Monday and ordered the hearing to be carried out inside the prison where Singh was being held.

Singh’s lawyer, A K Panth, said his client was innocent and would appeal against his conviction.

Vipassana Insan, a spokeswoman for Singh’s sect Dera Sacha Sauda, urged his followers to respect the court’s order.

READ MORE: Who is Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh?

Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman, reporting from Rohtak, said security was tight in Rohtak and Sirsa, where Singh’s headquarters are located, amid fears of further violence. 

“Security forces are searching anyone who’s entering Rohtak, while Sirsa is still under curfew,” he said. “In Sirsa, thousands of his followers are holed up in his ashram, or spritual centre, and they are refusing to leave.”

A curfew was put in place on Monday in Rohtak, too. Trains and buses leading to the town were cancelled to prevent Singh’s supporters from gathering there.

The Haryana state government, controlled by Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP, has faced criticism from the opposition and a state court for failing to stop last week’s violence. 

In advance of the sentencing, a spokesman for Singh’s sect, Dera Sacha Sauda, urged Singh’s supporters to remain calm.

In a monthly radio address on Sunday, Modi, the Indian prime minister, said it was “natural to be worried” after the violence that briefly broke out in Delhi.

The rape case against Singh was brought after an anonymous letter was sent to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then prime minister, in 2002.

The author accused Singh of repeatedly raping her. He denied the charges.

Few details were immediately available following the sentencing, but Singh’s lawyers can appeal the verdict in a higher court.

The rape charges were investigated by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, and a special CBI court convicted and sentenced Singh.

The rape conviction isn’t his only brush with the law. He is awaiting trial on a murder charge over the death of a journalist, and is also under investigation by the CBI over allegations of forcing several male followers to undergo castrations to bring them closer to God.

He has denied the accusations.

More than 30 killed in India riots over rapist ‘guru’

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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