Vienna gurdwara shootout suspect remains in custody

June 9th, 2009 - 2:47 pm ICT by IANS  

By Mehru Jaffer
Vienna, June 9 (IANS) Hardeep Singh, 33, a suspect in the May 24 shootout at the Guru Ravidass Gurdwara here in which a sect leader was killed, remains in custody awaiting deportation to India.

Hardeep was released from preventive detention last Friday for want of evidence of his involvement in the murder of Sant Rama Nand Dass, the 57-year-old leader of the Dera Sach Khand sect that sparked widespread violence in Punjab.

The suspect is arrested for living in Austria illegally since 2008.

“Hardeep Singh is in custody on charges of being an illegal immigrant. We are in the process of organising his deportation to India,” Vienna police spokesperson Michael Takacs told IANS.

Six men of Indian origin, including Hardeep Singh, were arrested soon after the May 24 shootout.

Dass who had visited Vienna from India succumbed to his injuries May 25, a day after six men attacked a congregation of about 300 people, including women and children with knives and a gun.

In the counter-attack by members of the audience 16 people were wounded.

The mastermind behind the murder and mayhem has remained in a state of induced coma for over two weeks after being treated for a gunshot wound in the head at a local hospital that is under guard.

“We will talk to him when the doctors allow us to,” Takacs said.

Two of the men in custody have been identified as illegal immigrants.

Charanjit Singh, 24, and Hardeep Singh came to Austria illegally in 2001 and 2008 respectively.

The asylum seekers include Sukhwinder Singh, 28, Jaspal Singh, 34, Satwinder Singh, 28 and S. Tarsum, 45. The suspects are not related to one another and have no previous criminal record.

Takacs is not aware of an Indian team expected to arrive here to help with investigations in Vienna.

“Whether the suspects will eventually be extradited to India for a trial is a political decision and the police (are) not aware of it,” the police spokesperson said.

Vienna’s Guru Ravidass Gurdwara president Som Dev said the premises used as a place of worship by Ravidassis of the Dera Sach Khand sect in Vienna since 2005 continues to be guarded by police.

“But I have the keys to the gurughar now and police are no longer working inside the hall where the shootout took place,” Som Dev told IANS.

The gurdwara is however still closed to worshippers and will open once the insurance company inspects and repairs the damage done to the property in the shootout.

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