A Maoist leader was on Tuesday convicted by a court in Kandhamal district for the murder of senior VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four others five years ago.

Additional Sessions Judge Rajendra Kumar Tosh held Pulari Rama Rao alias Uday, a Maoist leader from Andhra Pradesh, guilty for the murder of Laxmanananda and four of his disciples during Janmastami celebrations on August 23, 2008, at an ashram in Kandhamal district.

The court acquitted Somanath Dandasena for want of evidence.

The verdict came a day after seven persons were convicted by the court in the sensational murder case. The court will pronounce the quantum of punishment for all the eight convicts on October three.

The seven persons convicted on Monday were Gadanath Chalanseth, Bijaya Kumar Shyamseth, Buddha Nayak, Sanatan Badamajhi, Duryadhan Sunamajhi, Bhaskar Sunamajhi and Munda Badamajhi.

Besides murder and criminal conspiracy, they were convicted under provisions of IPC for offences including rioting with deadly weapons and unlawful assembly. They were also held guilty under several provisions of the Arms Act.

Out of the 13 accused in the case, nine were arrested while four are still at large.

The murder triggered communal violence leaving 37 dead and a large number of houses and places of worship damaged in Kandhamal district.

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