Disgraced Indian guru convicted of murdering journalist

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In this Oct. 5, 2016 file photo, Indian spiritual guru who calls himself Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, center, greets followers as he arrives for a press conference ahead of the release of his new movie "MSG: The Warrior Lion Heart," in New Delhi, India. (AP)
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In this file photo taken on August 25, 2017, a follower of Indian religious leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh pleads for her safety during clashes between the controversial guru's followers and security forces in Panchkula on August 25, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Disgraced Indian guru convicted of murdering journalist

  • When Singh was convicted in 2017 of raping two of his disciples, his followers went on the rampage leaving nearly 40 people dead

NEW DELHI: An Indian court Friday convicted a disgraced but still-powerful religious sect leader of murdering a journalist after he exposed rampant sexual abuses by the guru.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who headed the powerful Dera Sacha Sauda sect with millions of followers worldwide, is already serving a 20-year prison sentence for rape.
The court on Friday found 51-year-old Singh and three of his close aides guilty of killing local newspaper journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati in 2002.
Chhatrapati was shot outside his house after his local newspaper published an anonymous letter describing rampant sexual abuse by Singh at his sprawling and luxurious sect headquarters.
Public prosecutor H.P.S. Verma said sentencing would be pronounced on Thursday. The maximum sentence is the death penalty.
When Singh was convicted in 2017 of raping two of his disciples, his followers went on the rampage leaving nearly 40 people dead.
To avoid a repeat, Friday’s court proceedings were conducted via video link from his jail cell in the northern state of Haryana.
Riot police patrolled outside the special court in the city of Panchkula.
Since 2015, Singh has also been on trial for castrating 400 of his followers, who alleged that they were promised spiritual gains.
His 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.


Taliban says talks with the US enter fourth day in Qatar

Updated 24 January 2019
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Taliban says talks with the US enter fourth day in Qatar

  • Washington has been stepping up efforts for a peace deal that could pave the way for the Taliban's participation in the next government
  • Washington wants the insurgents to enter talks with the Afghan government, but they have long refused

KABUL: Negotiations between the Taliban and US officials in Qatar entered a fourth straight day Thursday, according to the insurgents, as the two sides pursue a potential deal to bring an end to Afghanistan's 17-year conflict.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed to AFP that "discussions are still ongoing".
"We will talk in detail later when we reach agreement," the spokesman added.
Washington has been stepping up efforts for a peace deal that could pave the way for the Taliban's participation in the next government.
"Both sides are discussing the various aspects of the US troops' withdrawal," a senior Taliban commander based in an unknown location in Pakistan told AFP, adding that a statement could be released later in the day or on Friday.
The Pakistan foreign ministry also confirmed that talks were ongoing between the two sides. However, there was no immediate comment from the US embassy or NATO in Kabul.
The US said Tuesday it had resumed talks with the insurgents in Qatar, where special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was meeting Taliban representatives.
Rahimullah Yusufzai, an expert on the Taliban, said the continuation of the talks represented "unprecedented" progress.
"I have never seen anything like this before," he said.
"This is the first serious effort. And it has continued since July... they have agreed to disagree and continued to meet. That's why it's unprecedented."
Talks have primarily focused on three major points: the withdrawal of US troops, a vow to prevent Afghan soil from being a base for attacks on other countries, and a potential ceasefire, according to Yusufzai.
Washington wants the insurgents to enter talks with the Afghan government, but they have long refused, denouncing Kabul as a US puppet.
The talks come after Khalilzad spent the weekend in Pakistan where he met with Prime Minister Imran Khan as part of a regional tour that saw the envoy shuttling between India, China and Afghanistan.
The US is not the only country engaged in talks with the militants.
Russia and Iran have held meetings with the Taliban in recent months, while China has also made overtures. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan are all participating in the US efforts.
"Pakistan has influence with the group, and the Russians also are somewhat supporting the Taliban," said Ateequllah Amarkhail, a Kabul-based military analyst.
"The meetings will continue in the future," he added.
The resumption of talks comes over a month after President Donald Trump ordered a halving of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan as he voices eagerness to end America's longest-ever war, launched in 2001 after the September 11 attacks.