Six Sikh men sent to prison for Austria temple attack

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Tuesday, 28 September 2010 08:17 GMT

VIENNA, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Six men have been sentenced to prison terms in Austria over an attack on a Sikh temple which killed a visiting preacher and triggered deadly riots in India.

A court sentenced on Monday night one of the men, 35, to life in prison for murder and two counts of attempted murder, the Austrian Press Agency (APA) reported on Tuesday.

Four others, who had been charged with being accomplices in attempted murder and with attempted severe assault on the worshippers, received 17 to 18-year prison sentences, while one man got only six months in prison for attempted coercion.

The main accused man had told the court he was suffering from memory loss after being subdued by worshippers wielding frying pans, a rolling pin and a microphone stand, APA said.

However, a court-appointed psychiatrist said her tests could not confirm the memory loss. A gun used in the attack in May, 2009, carried the man&${esc.hash}39;s DNA traces, and investigators found gunshot residue on his hands and clothes after the attack.

His lawyer will appeal the verdict, APA said. The others can also appeal the ruling.

Prosecutors say the men, all Sikhs, had planned the attack on the visiting preacher because of a religious dispute. They went on a rampage wielding a gun and knives during a temple service attended by around 150 people.

Dozens of people were wounded in the attack, which also sparked riots in several Indian cities where thousands took to the streets, setting fire to cars and trains and battling with security forces. Several people died in the clashes. (Reporting by Boris Groendahl)

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