A disgraced religious sect leader was sentenced to life imprisonment Thursday for murdering a journalist who exposed rampant sexual abuses by the powerful guru.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who headed the Dera Sacha Sauda sect with millions of followers worldwide, was convicted by the court last week on charges of ordering the killing in 2002.
“The sentence will come into effect once he completes his ongoing jail term of 20 years on charges of rape,” H.P.S Verma, prosecution lawyer, told AFP.
Verma said three other people along with the guru were also given life imprisonment by the court.
Ram Chander Chhatrapati was shot outside his home after his local newspaper published an anonymous letter describing widespread sexual abuse by Singh at his luxurious sect headquarters in Punjab state.
Three of Singh’s close aides were also convicted by the court and sentenced to life in jail over the journalist’s murder.
Prosecutors had demanded the death sentence for all four accused, including Singh.
The 51-year-old was convicted in 2017 of raping two of his disciples, and sentenced to 20 years prison.
The verdict triggered widespread rioting, with tens of thousands of his followers going on a rampage in several north Indian states.
Cars were torched and nearly 40 of his devotees killed in clashes with police in Haryana.
To avoid a repeat of the violence, authorities deployed heavy security and deployed drones around Panchkula court, where the verdict was being handed down. Singh received his sentence via video link in prison.
India was ranked the fifth deadliest place for journalists in 2018, according to Reporters without Borders.
Six reporters were killed in India last year — trailing war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan.
Journalists are often targeted by powerful interests, including politicians and criminals.
India is no stranger to scandals involving popular ascetics claiming to possess mystical powers.
Since 2015, Singh has also been on trial for castrating 400 of his followers, who alleged that they were promised spiritual gains.
Dera defended the sterilsation claiming it was done to “safeguard female followers from possible sexual advances”.
Singh is also accused in the murder of his former manager after he threatened to expose his wrongdoings.
Disgraced US television icon Bill Cosby will return to a Pennsylvania court on Monday to face sentencing for sexual assault, five months after his conviction at the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.
The frail 81-year-old — once beloved as “America’s Dad” — faces a maximum potential sentence of 30 years for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand at his Philadelphia mansion in January 2004.
He will be the first celebrity sentenced for a sex crime since the 2017 downfall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein signaled the beginning of America’s public reckoning with sexual harassment.
The pioneering comedian and award-winning actor was found guilty April 26 on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors will ask for him to be sent straight to prison, while his lawyers are likely to appeal for him to remain under house arrest pending the outcome of any appeals, celebrity website TMZ reported.
His legal team will likely argue for leniency given his age and frailty. Cosby maintains that he is now legally blind.
The final decision rests with Judge Steven O’Neill, who will impose the sentence after a hearing that could stretch across two days in Norristown, a down-at-heel town just outside Philadelphia.
The reputation and career of the once towering figure in late 20th century American popular culture — the first black actor to grace primetime US television — is already in tatters.
Once adored by millions for his defining role on “The Cosby Show,” he has been confined to his Philadelphia area mansion on a $1 million bail for nearly three years, fitted with a GPS monitor and subjected to a violent sexual predator assessment after his guilty conviction.
As soon as the jury returned their verdict, prosecutors demanded that his bail be revoked, arguing he was a flight risk — but O’Neill refused to “lock him up right now.”
“He doesn’t have a plane, you asshole!” yelled Cosby in his first public outburst and loss of control after chief prosecutor Kevin Steele claimed he could flee anywhere in the world by private jet.
Around 60 women, many of them onetime aspiring actresses and models publicly branded him a calculating, serial predator who plied victims with sedatives and alcohol to bed them over four decades.
The case involving Constand, a Canadian former basketball player and Temple University employee turned massage therapist, was the only one that happened recently enough to prosecute.
O’Neill has refused to allow additional Cosby accusers to give statements at his sentencing, although it is not clear if the five others who testified at trial will in fact appear.
Cosby is now on his third lead lawyer, Joseph Green, since his arrest in December 2015, having parted ways with celebrity advocate Tom Mesereau after the guilty verdict.
Cosby’s first trial ended in June 2017 with a hung jury, hopelessly deadlocked after 52 hours of deliberations.
The first bigwig convicted in the United States in the FIFA corruption scandal that disgraced world football awaited sentencing on Wednesday.
US prosecutors are seeking 10 years in prison and a $6.6 million fine for Jose Maria Marin, 86, the former president of the Brazilian football federation.
Marin was convicted of accepting bribes from sports marketing companies in exchange for contracts to broadcast major tournaments like the Copa America and the Copa Libertadores.
Citing his age and frail health, prosecutors are asking that he be sentenced to 13 months in prison.
US District Court Judge Pamela Chen was expected to announce her decision at 1430 GMT.
Marin was one of the FIFA executives arrested in May 2015 at a luxury hotel in Zurich in a raid requested by the United States.
The US probe revealed the corrupt, ugly underbelly of world football and the lavish lifestyle of FIFA executives who traveled around in private planes and were treated like royalty as they arrived for conferences in places like the Bahamas or Mauritius.
The scandal rocked football around the world.
US prosecutors ultimately indicted 42 people and sports companies, accusing them of multiple crimes and of accepting more than $200 million in bribes.
Of the 42, three have since died. Of the rest, 22 pleaded guilty and two have already been sentenced by judge Chen.
Another 14 remain in their own countries, where they have been either tried by local courts, are fighting extradition or are still free.
Marin spent five months in a prison in Switzerland before being extradited to the US.
He posted bail of $15 million and spent two years under house arrest. He stayed in Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York. He ventured out only a few times a week, to go to mass.
Marin was imprisoned immediately after his conviction on December 22 on six counts of racketeering, money laundering and bank fraud.
During the trial, defense attorneys depicted Marin as an innocent, unsuspecting elderly man that Brazil’s football federation tapped out of the blue to fill the vacancy left by the sudden resignation of the powerful Ricardo Texeira.
These lawyers said Marin did nothing without the guidance of his right-hand man, Marco Polo del Nero, with whom, according to prosecutors, he shared bribe payments.