Missionary Murder Suspect Challenges Conviction

A man who was sentenced to life for the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, challenged his conviction Tuesday in an Indian Supreme Court, according to local news agencies.

Dara Singh, whose death penalty was commuted into life imprisonment by the High Court of India’s Orissa state, contended Tuesday that his conviction was merely upheld on the basis of presumption of his presence at the site of incident as the mob was shouting slogans in his name, according to the Press Trust of India.

"The conviction of Dara is solely on the basis of mere presumption, which is contrary to the principles of criminal justice and devoid of law," stated the petition filed by his counsel Sibo Sankar Mishra.

On May 19, the High Court had set aside the death sentence of Singh – alias Rabindra Kumar Pal - for the murder of Staines and his two sons but had upheld life imprisonment on him for being part of a mob of Hindu fanatics that burnt the three to death outside a tribal village church in India's eastern Orissa.

Although he and dozen other alleged perpetrators were convicted in September 2003 after a lengthy trial, the court later found that there was no evidence to suggest that Singh acted alone.

The high court of Orissa also acquitted 11 of 12 others of whom were sentenced to life for burning Graham and his two children alive while they slept in their car.

The decision shocked the Christian community and drew concerns over the legal process in India.