Temple attacker gets life

A 35-year-old Sikh was sentenced to life behind bars yesterday (Mon) for killing a guru of the Ravidas movement in a temple in Vienna last year.Prosecutor Stefan Apostol explained at the Criminal Court of Vienna that Jaspal Singh fired seven shots from close range at gurus Sant Niranjan Dass and Sant Rama Nand at a Ravidas temple in the city’s Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus district on 24 May 2009.While the religious movement’s spiritual leader Sant Niranjan Dass, 68, survived seriously injured, his 57-year-old deputy and designated successor Sant Rama Nand died shortly after the attack which hit headlines all over the world.Jaspal Singh claimed in court he could not remember the incident. He was in an artificial coma for five weeks after horrified believers punched him with frying pans and a camera tripod.Asked what his profession was, he told judge Susanne Lehr: “I see myself delivering newspapers in my dreams, so I might have been a newspaper deliverer.”The 35-year-old was accompanied by five fellow members of a radical Sikh branch in Spain. Four of them were sentenced to 17 and 18 years in jail for complicity and attempted bodily harm, while the fifth defendant got just six months.The group travelled to Austria when it was announced that the two gurus will attend a ceremony. Reports have it that the group planned to attack the gurus because the Ravidas sect worshipped them as much as they honour their books of prayers. Their own religious group, however, thinks that the holy books and writings must stand above all.Witnesses said the main suspect shot at the spiritual leaders of the community when the hundreds of people attending the mass kneeled down in front of them. They also told judges that the attackers used a little child as a “protective shield” when they tried to flee the temple. Dozens of people were injured as the six-member gang used daggers in their bid to escape.Crime site investigations revealed that the attackers took off their socks and shoes in their car to avoid wasting time getting into the temple and out again as it is forbidden to enter wearing footgear.One defendant infuriated witnesses by claiming in court he did not even hear shots since he was so immersed in praying.It took Viennese police months to clarify who was in charge of the attack due to the havoc and contradicting statements made by suspects and witnesses. Charges were eventually set after DNA investigations eventually identified the offenders.Two people were killed by army and police forces during riots in the Pakistani-Indian Punjab region following the incident. The attack also caused a heated debate in Austria over the coexistence of different religious groups in Austria.