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The Dera Sacha Sauda on Friday described as "unjust" a special CBI court's verdict against its guru, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, convicted in a 2002 rape case, and said it would appeal against it
In a statement in Hindi, signed by spokesperson Dilawar Insaan, the Dera also appealed for peace amid widespread violence that has already claimed 17 lives after the verdict was pronounced earlier today.
"This is unjust. We will appeal against the judgement," the statement said.
"What has happened with us is something that has happened to gurus through history. Dera Sacha Sauda is dedicated to the betterment of humanity. We request all to maintain peace," the statement further read.
The judgment triggered widespread violence and arson by Ram Rahim's supporters in Punjab and Haryana. The violence left a trail of destruction and vandalism and many injured, officials said.
CBI judge Jagdeep Singh held the 50-year-old Dera Sacha Sauda chief guilty of rape in a case that was registered on the basis of a 2002 anonymous written complaint which said he had sexually exploited two women followers.
On the basis of the report, a case was registered against him in December 2002 by the CBI on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The quantum of sentence will be pronounced on August 28, CBI counsel HPS Verma told reporters outside the court.
The punishment can be a jail term of not less than seven years but may even extend to life imprisonment.
The Special CBI court framed charges against Ram Rahim under Sections 376 (rape) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC in September 2008.