India court sentences 12 Hindus to life in prison for killing Muslims in religious riots

A court sentenced 12 Hindus to life imprisonment for killing a group of Muslims during last year's religious riots in western India that left more than 1,000 people dead, an official said Tuesday.

Three other people convicted on lesser charges of assault and rioting were sentenced to three years in prison, said Paresh Dhore, prosecutor in the western state of Gujarat.

Female relatives of the convicted wailed and shouted slogans as Judge C. K. Rane read out the sentences at the district court in Nadiad, 25 miles south of Ahmadabad.

The court acquitted 48 others also accused of the killings in Ghodasar village, but the state prosecutor said the government would appeal.

The 14 victims, all Muslims, were hacked to death March 3, 2002, after they were found hiding in the fields by a Hindu mob. Witnesses said a mob of nearly 7,000 people surrounded Ghodasar before the massacre.

Rioting swept through Gujarat last year after Muslims set fire to a train carrying Hindu religious pilgrims, killing 60. Most of the more than 1,000 riot victims were Muslims.

Gujarat's Hindu nationalist government and police were accused of failing to stop attacks on Muslims and, in many cases, turning a blind eye when Hindu mobs attacked and killed Muslims and set their homes on fire.

Last week, India's Supreme Court reportedly halted trials in 10 cases related to the Gujarat riots to ensure justice.

Three Supreme Court judges said they were unhappy with the way the trials were being conducted, including allowing perpetrators of hate crimes to remain free on bail and witnesses to reverse their testimony, Press Trust of India news agency reported.