June 10 (UPI) -- Six Indian men were found guilty Monday in the rape and killing of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua, India.
The case sparked outrage across the country as government officials were among the accused, including the main culprit, temple priest and village head Sanji Ram. The others involved included Parvesh Kumar, police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, Head Constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta. The officers were also accused of destroying evidence.
Sanji Ram's son, Vishal Jangotra, was acquitted of all charges after providing an alibi.
Authorities said the girl, who was part of a roving Muslim tribe, was kidnapped in January and drugged, starved and raped for several days. The girl was strangled and her head smashed in with a rock. Her body wasn't found for a week.
Investigators suggested the girl was killed to terrorize Bakherwal Muslim nomads in Kathua and persuade them to leave.
"Welcome to judgement. High time we stop playing politics over a heinous crime where an 8-year-old was drugged, raped repeatedly & then bludgeoned to death," Police Chief Mehbooba Mufti tweeted. "Hope loopholes in our judicial system are not exploited & culprits get exemplary punishment."
Defense attorneys said they plan to appeal the conviction to the high court in Punjab and Haryana.
Two BJP leaders rallied in support of the accused, which ended the alliance between that party and the Peoples Democratic Party.
The case was moved to Pathankot a year ago under direction from the Supreme Court after massive protests were staged in Kathua.