Indian guru faces life in prison for raping teenage devotee
Asaram Bapu found guilty in Jodhpur court amid tight security due to fears of violence
Spiritual guru Asaram Bapu: has denied the rape and can appeal against his conviction in a higher court. Photograph: Sunil Verma/AP
An Indian court has found a high-profile spiritual guru guilty of raping a teenage female devotee in 2013 and he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The verdict against 77-year-old Asaram Bapu was read out inside a prison in the city of Jodhpur because of fears that his followers could resort to violence.
The case is the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India that have fuelled public protests and raised questions about how police handle the cases and treat the victims.
In August last year, another popular and flamboyant Indian spiritual guru, Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, was sentenced to 20 years for raping two female followers.
Judge Madhusudhan Sharma will announce the prison term for Bapu later after hearing arguments from the prosecution and Bapu’s lawyers.
Bapu has denied the rape and can appeal against his conviction in a higher court.
In a complaint to police in 2013, the girl accused Bapu of raping her when she visited his retreat in Jodhpur with her mother. Her family said they had been followers of Bapu for more than a decade.
He has been in prison since his arrest in 2013.
On Wednesday, security was tight around the prison complex and in states where the self-styled guru has a considerable following.
Religious sects wield considerable political clout in India with several politicians as followers.
Asaram is also on trial with his son Narayan Sai in a separate rape case where two sisters have accused them of sexual assault. – Reuters