India court sentences 11 to death for land-grab murder

KOLKATA (AFP) - An Indian court sentenced 11 political activists to death Thursday (Feb 4) for murdering a housewife in an attempt to illegally procure disputed land from a village in the eastern part of the country.

The court in West Bengal state found the group guilty of shooting dead Aparna Bag when she tried to stop armed men from grabbing land she claimed to own in November 2014.

The activists from the state's ruling Trinamool Congress party tried to forcefully seize the land, in Nadia district about 150km from Kolkata, saying it belonged to the government.

"A district sessions court... convicted all the 11 accused for murdering 38-year-old housewife Aparna Bag before handing down the death sentences," public prosecutor Tamal Mukherjee told AFP.

"The court awarded the death sentence to all the 11 accused in the case and they should be hanged till death," Mukherjee said.

Three other villagers who were shot in the incident survived.

Executions are rarely carried out in India, but President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected a number of mercy pleas in recent years, ending a de facto eight-year moratorium.

In the most recent case, India executed Yakub Memon in July for his role in a series of co-ordinated attacks that killed hundreds of people in Mumbai in 1993.

The country's top court has said that capital punishment should only be carried out in "the rarest of rare" cases in India, among a dwindling group of nations that still have the death penalty on their statute books.