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A fast-track court in Orissa Thursday sentenced Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Manoj Pradhan to six years’ rigorous imprisonment for a murder during the 2008 communal riots in Kandhamal district, a lawyer said.

Judge C.R. Das of the the fast-track court II at Phulbani, the district headquarters of Kandhamal, handed down the sentence to Pradhan for the murder of Bikram Nayak at Tiangia village under Raikia police station area Aug 25, 2008.

‘The court sentenced him to six years’ rigorous imprisonment. A fine of Rs.15,500 was also slapped on him,’ Pradhan’s lawyer Ajit Patnaik told IANS.

Kandhamal district, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23, 2008.

At least 38 people were killed and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs that held Christians responsible for Saraswati’s killing, although the police blamed the Maoists.

Pradhan, who represents G Udaygiri assembly constituency, will appeal against the judgment in a higher court, Patnaik said.

‘His (Pradhan) name was not mentioned in the first information report (FIR). His name was added by the police later after the incident,’ he said.

Pradhan was arrested in October 2008 on several charges, including murder, rioting and arson. He fought the assembly elections in April 2009 from jail and defeated senior Congress leader Ajaynti Pradhan.

Pradhan faced 14 criminal cases, including six cases of murder. He was earlier convicted by another fast tract court in the same district in another murder case June 29.

The government has set up two fast track courts in the district to try criminal cases related to communal riots.

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