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Indian Opposition Leader Charged over 1992 Riots

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RAE BARELI, India - Indian opposition leader Lal Krishna Advani was charged in court on Thursday with inciting religious riots that triggered the razing of a mosque in 1992 and left thousands dead.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Advani, leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has always denied any wrongdoing in the razing of the 16th century Babri mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya.

The charges against Advani were thrown out of court in 2003, but a higher court overturned that decision earlier this month and ordered him and seven others to stand trial.

P.K. Chaube, prosecutor for India's Central Bureau of Investigation, told reporters that a court in the northern town of Rae Bareli had taken note of the charges against Advani and would begin a trial on August 30.

The charges against Advani include inciting riots and delivering provocative speeches that fanned religious passions. These charges carry a punishment of up to five years in jail.

More than 3,000 people were killed in riots that erupted across India after the Babri mosque was razed, and the bitter dispute has become the lightning rod for tension between the country's majority Hindus and minority Muslims.

The BJP and its sister organisations believe that Islamic invaders tore down a temple of Hindu god-king Ram and constructed the Babri mosque.

Since its defeat in last year's general election, Advani's BJP has been trying to resuscitate its political fortunes by reviving the demand for building the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

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