Witnesses for Nun’s Rape Case Threatened, Refuse to Testify

Five prosecution witnesses gave compromised testimony in the case of the nun who was raped during the August pogrom against Christians in Orissa’s Kandhamal district because they had been threatened with “dire consequences.” The witnesses testified on April 22 in a special court.
Two witnesses, Prahalad Pradhan and his wife Chanchala, in whose house Sister Meena took shelter after the rape, did not confirm the incident. Prahalad said that the two were dragged from their house by a mob, but in her deposition, Chanchala only admitted that the nun and a priest took shelter in their house and said she did not know anything else.
Three other witnesses, Debendra Naik, Dhaneswar Mallick and Surendra Digal, stated that they had no knowledge of the incident. Sr. Meena was raped and paraded naked in Orissa, India, on August 25, 2008. Nine persons have been arrested in the case. On April 20, the Orissa High Court issued notices to the Government of Orissa and to the suspects that the case would be transferred from the Phulbani, where the incident occurred, to Cuttack, a major city. The court also directed the trial court to defer the examination of Sr. Meena “if she files a petition seeking so.”
The trial court issued a summons to Sr. Meena to appear in court the last week of April. The nun filed a petition seeking a stay on further proceedings and requested that the case be moved to Cuttack.
The reason Sr. Meena requested that the location of the proceedings be moved is because “she and the other witnesses are being threatened with dire consequences” if they appear at the Phulbani court. Due to the as yet unresolved pogrom against Christians that started in August 2008, Sr. Meena is afraid that her life would be in danger at the local court and that she would not receive a fair trial.
The executive magistrate, Mr. Saroj Kumar Mishra, told the court, “As soon as I was informed about the nun and priest Thomas Chelan’s presence at K Nuagaon police outpost, I instructed officials to shift them to the Baliguda police station where the nun lodged an FIR alleging that she was raped.”
The rape of the 29-year-old nun has created an uproar across the country. Lawyers for Sr. Meena have reported that the next hearing for the case is scheduled for May 11.
Source: International Christian Concern 05-May-2009


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