Bhubaneswar: A court in Odisha on Thursday sentenced eight convicts, including a Maoist, in the 2008 murder case of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and four of his aides in Kandhamal district to life in prison.
The special additional district sessions court at Phulbani, the headquarters of Kandhamal district, about 200 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on each of them, prosecution lawyer Ramesh Mohanty told a news agency.
On Monday and Tuesday, the court had held eight people guilty of the murder.
They are Duryodhan Suna Majhi, Munda Bada Majhi, Sanatan Bada Majhi, Garnatha Chalanseth, Bijay Kumar Samseth, Bhaskar Suna Majhi, Budhadev Nayak, and Pulari Rama Rao alias Uday.
Rama Rao alias Uday was a Maoist leader while others are local residents, the prosecution lawyer said.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and his four aides were killed at their ashram by then unidentified gunmen at Jaleshpata in Kandhamal district on August 23, 2008.
Five accused, including Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, are still absconding, police said.
The convicts said they committed the crime as, according to them, Saraswati was forcing Christians to convert to Hinduism.
The killing of Saraswati and his aides triggered communal violence in the state, in which at least 38 people were killed.