Indian politician acquitted in anti-Sikh riots of 1984

NEW DELHI (AP) - An Indian court acquitted a ruling Congress party leader on Tuesday of charges he incited mobs to kill Sikhs during the country's 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Former parliamentarian Sajjan Kumar had faced a possible death sentence if he had been convicted of inciting a mob in the capital to kill a family of Sikhs in the violence that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. More than 3,000 Sikhs were killed during the riots.

After the ruling was read, an angry person in the courtroom threw a shoe at the judge, according to Indian media, and angry Sikhs gathered outside the courthouse to protest.

"This will be a black spot on the judicial system of India," Mr Manjeet Singh, a local Sikh leader, told CNN-IBN television.

Kumar's lawyer, I.U. Khan, called the case an example of "malicious prosecution." "It appears to be a case of no evidence," he told CNN-IBN.

The special court affiliated with the Central Bureau of Investigation convicted five other defendants Tuesday in the case.

Kumar is facing at least one other case in connection with the riots, Mr Khan said.

The lengthy delay in a judgment in the case underscored both the slow pace of justice in India and the difficulty in bringing powerful people to trial.

Mrs Gandhi was killed after violently suppressing a Sikh insurgency that culminated in an army assault on the Golden Temple, the holiest site in Sikhism, where militant Sikhs had taken refuge.

In the days after her death, mobs of Hindus went from house to house across northern India, pulling Sikhs from their homes, hacking many to death and burning others alive. Top Congress party leaders have been accused of fomenting the violence.

Earlier this month, a Delhi court reopened a case against a former minister from the Congress party who was accused of inciting a mob during the riots.