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Jharkhand HC Acquits Jitan Marandi and others

From Yahoo News (IANS):

Ranchi, Dec 15 (IANS) The Jharkhand High Court Thursday acquitted four suspected Maoists who were awarded death sentence for the 2007 massacre of 19 people, including the son of former chief minister Babulal Marandi.
A division bench of the Jharkhand High Court of Justice R.K. Merethia and Justice D.N. Upadhaya acquitted the four convicted men granting them benefit of doubt.

‘The court acquitted all the four accused on benefit of doubt. Police had produced former Maoists and those people who were not living in the village as witness,’ S.K. Murari, lawyer of Jitan Marandi, one of those acquitted, told IANS.

A Giridih court had early this year awarded death sentence to the four Maoist guerrillas involved in the massacre of 19 people at Chilkhari village of Giridih district in 2007.

Maoist guerrillas had attacked during a cultural programme in Chilkhari village on October 24, 2007 night and sprayed the assembled villagers with gunfire. In the attack, 12 were also injured. The programme was attended by Nunulal Marandi and Anup Marandi, brother and son of former chief minister Babulal Marandi. Anup Marandi was killed in the attack while Nunulal escaped.

The four men awarded death sentence by Giridih court on May 23 this year were Jitan Marandi, Manoj Rajuwar, Anil Ram and Chatrapati Mandal. Their family members and many social workers defended them.

‘The contradictory statements of the witnesses went in favour of the accused and they were acquitted on the ground of benefit of doubt. Police produced six witnesses who had criminal background and were not present at the programme. None of the 12 injured people could identify anyone accused of the massacre’ said Murari.

The acquittal is considered a setback for Jharkhand Police.

Social worker Binayak Sen and other social activists had come to Jharkhand seeking release of Jitan Marandi.
Aparna Marandi, wife of Jitan, expressing her happiness, told IANS: ‘It is the victory of the judicial system. My husband is a social worker and artist. His release will ensure release of other people lodged in jails of different states in the name of being Maoists.’