New Delhi, India: Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, a popular and flamboyant spiritual guru in India, who is serving 20 years in prison for raping two female followers, was convicted Friday of murdering a journalist 16 years ago in another case.
Judge Jagdeep Singh convicted the guru, who calls himself Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, and three other people and will sentence them on Jan. 17.
All four could face death sentences in the killing of journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati after he published a letter in his newspaper alleging sexual exploitation of women by the guru.
The guru was named as the main conspirator in the killing case.
He is currently being held in a prison in the northern India town of Rohtak after he was sentenced in August in the rape case. He was also fined 3 million rupees ($47,000).
His conviction last year sparked violent protests by his followers that left at least 38 people dead and hundreds injured in the northern town of Panchkula.
Public prosecutor HPS. Verma said sentencing would be pronounced on Thursday. The maximum sentence is the death penalty.
When Singh was convicted in 2017 of raping two of his disciples, his followers went on the rampage leaving nearly 40 people dead.
To avoid a repeat, Friday’s court proceedings were conducted via video link from his jail cell in the northern state of Haryana.
Riot police patrolled outside the special court in the city of Panchkula.
Since 2015, Singh has also been on trial for castrating 400 of his followers, who alleged that they were promised spiritual gains.
His Dera defended the sterilsation claiming it was done to “safeguard female followers from possible sexual advances”.
Singh is also accused in the murder of his former manager after he threatened to expose his wrongdoings.
He played himself in hagiographic biopics and courted India’s powerful politicians. He lived with tens of thousands of his followers on a sprawling 400-hectare (1,000-acre) ashram in Haryana state until he was sentenced last year.