The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebels review 'death sentence'

Imphal, Feb. 19: The Kuki Liberation Army (KLA), a militant outfit of Manipur, announced today that it has reviewed its decision to execute a human rights activist and church leader for allegedly working against the organisation's interests.

The KLA announced that it has reviewed the decision to award capital punishment to human rights activist and church leader T. Lunkim, who is currently in the outfit's custody.

It has decided to impose a fine on him as a penalty for working against the outfit.

Making this announcement, KLA publicity secretary Malsom Kuki said in a statement that if Lunkim did not pay the fine imposed on him, then the outfit could review its decision again. It also warned that no attempt to hold negotiations on his case would be entertained.

The KLA, however, did not specify the fine that was imposed on the hostage.

Lunkim went missing after he had gone to his native village of L. Molnom in Senapati district on January 17. Lunkim, who is the village chief, is also the chairman of the Kuki Movement for Human Rights and secretary of the Kuki Christian Church.

His wife, C. Lunkim, lodged a complaint with Thoubal police, alleging that unidentified men had abducted her husband.

Reacting to appeals from the Kuki Inpi, Manipur, the apex body of the tribal community, as well as the Kuki Movement for Human Rights, the KLA denied that the church leader had been abducted.

The KLA claimed it had 'summoned' him in connection with a controversy concerning the outfit and Kuki politics.

Accusing the 70-year-old tribal leader of trying to politically finish off the KLA and meddling in Kuki politics, the communiqu' warned: 'His case is still under investigation. No hue and cry from any quarter is necessary. All are requested not to interfere in our internal affairs if you do not want any unwanted situation to happen.'

The statement further said the KLA was aware that Lunkim was 'a person truly devoted to the service of the Church'. But at the same time, it added that he had embroiled himself in politics.

Claiming that the charges were grounded on solid facts, the KLA said some people were trying to present it as a case of abduction for ransom to tarnish the outfit's image.

'The truth of the situation is that it is not abduction for ransom, but a penalty (fine) in lieu of capital punishment, which is the most lenient action against him. Otherwise, death penalty is what he rightfully deserves,' it claimed.

The KLA, however, said it had given due consideration to the appeals by social leaders and accordingly commuted the death sentence awarded to him.

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