US judge dismisses suit against India PM Modi over 2002 riots

NEW YORK (AFP) - A US judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that accused him of “attempted genocide” over deadly anti-Muslim riots in 2002.

New York judge Analisa Torres threw out the suit on the grounds that Mr Modi is not under her court’s jurisdiction after the US government argued he was entitled to immunity as a sitting head of government.

The American Justice Centre, a human rights group, filed the civil suit against Mr Modi in September, accusing him of initiating and condoning the massacre and holding him responsible for the deaths.

The outbreak of anti-Muslim violence left at least 1,000 people dead in 2002 in the western state of Gujarat, where Mr Modi was then chief minister before he was elected prime minister in 2014.

Mr Modi denies any wrongdoing and the Indian courts have cleared him of all charges.

But the failure of his administration to control the violence and his refusal to apologise left a legacy of distrust and suspicion.

The judge’s order to close the case came two weeks before US President Barack Obama is to be guest of honour at India’s Republic Day celebrations on Jan 26.

There was no immediate response from the American Justice Centre.

The lawsuit had been filed one day before Mr Modi visited New York and Washington for the first time as Indian leader.

The 28-page complaint claimed that Mr Modi committed crimes against humanity, extra-judicial killings, torture and the infliction of mental and physical trauma on victims, mostly Muslims.

Mr Modi, a Hindu nationalist, was blocked from obtaining a US visa in 2005 over the allegations, which he has always denied.

But Mr Obama gave him to a lavish welcome at the White House in September.

At the time, officials said the suit would not detract from the determination of both sides to forge closer relations.

The United States and European powers boycotted Mr Modi for more than a decade after the riots, but have largely embraced him after his Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide election victory.

US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with Mr Modi in India on the sidelines of a major trade summit on Sunday, hailing him as a “visionary” poised to transform the Indian economy.

Mr Kerry was criticised at home and in Europe for choosing to remain in India rather than attend a march in Paris with other international leaders condemning attacks in France that killed 17 people.