Thiruvananthapuram, Jan. 22: American evangelist Joseph Cooper, who was attacked by suspected Sangh parivar activists last week, left Kerala today even as a local court was considering a petition filed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad seeking to stop him from leaving the country.
The petition, heard by the first class magistrate’s court at Attingal on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, has called for Cooper’s arrest and prosecution for violating visa regulations and preaching Christianity when he was here as a tourist. The court will give its verdict on the admissibility of the petition on Friday.
Cooper’s hurried departure follows an order issued by the Kerala government two days ago, asking him to leave the country within seven days.
Confirming his departure, police spokesperson T.K. Vinod Kumar said: “Joseph Cooper has left the state of Kerala.We do not know where he has gone or what his ultimate destination would be.”
Sources close to Cooper indicated that the American missionary had taken a flight to Mumbai, from where he would head for the US.
Cooper had received a deep cut on his right palm and bruises all over his body after he was waylaid while returning from a gospel convention .
The attack took place on the night of January 13 at Koppam-Puliyam in Kilimanoor, a small town near Thiruvananthapuram. A local priest, Benson, his wife Sali and their child were also injured in the attack.
Ten activists of the RSS have been arrested in the past week in connection with the attack.
The US evangelist was admitted to a private hospital and advised “bed rest” till January 28. However, he was discharged last night and took this morning’s flight with his right palm still in bandage.
The case filed against him by the local VHP unit appeared to have hastened his departure.
Chief minister A.K. Antony said though Cooper has been asked to leave for violating visa regulations, the case against those who attacked him would “take the normal course of law”.