'Six charged over Vienna Sikh temple murder'



Vienna: Six men have been charged in connection with a gun and knife attack at a Sikh temple in Vienna last year in which a visiting guru was shot dead, sparking unrest back in India, prosecutors said today.

A 35-year-old Indian man is being charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder for the May 24 shooting.

Five other men, aged 29 to 46, face charges of complicity to murder and attempted grievous assault, the prosecution said.

A trial date has not been set, it added.

Sikh guru Sant Rama Nand, 57, was killed and 16 others were injured during the attack on a gathering at a Sikh temple in the Austrian capital on May 24, 2009.

Among those injured was another visiting guru from India, Sant Niranjan Dass, 68, who was hit by two bullets in the abdomen and the hip.

The main suspect, who was shot in the head during the clash and spent time in hospital in an induced coma, said he did not remember anything. According to a psychiatric expert, these claims were "credible".

The five other suspects meanwhile rejected the charges against them, their lawyer Alexia Stuefer told AFP.

"Being at the scene of the crime does not make you guilty," she argued.

Although the five did drive to the temple with the alleged murderer, "they were not aware of his plans," said Stuefer.

"If they had known, they would have stopped him. They simply wanted to see the ceremony," she said, adding that her clients had been "seriously injured" during the attack.

A religious row between orthodox Sikh groups and the two gurus' movement -- Shri Guru Ravidas Sabha -- was believed to be behind the attack, prosecutors said.

The shooting had been planned in advance, probably by a radical Sikh group in Spain, they added, noting that several of the suspects had travelled to Vienna from Spain before the attack.

The Vienna clash ignited unrest in India that caused at least two deaths and led to heightened security across the northern state of Punjab.

PTI