Rape convict places Kurien at the scene, time of 'crime'

In the most damaging testimony against P J Kurien so far, the lone convict in the Suryanelli gangrape case has said that he had taken the senior Congress leader to the guesthouse in Kumali on the day the victim says she was sexually assaulted by him there.

Advocate S S Dharmarajan, the third accused in the case, told Malayalam TV channel Mathrubhumi News in Mysore that he had taken Kurien to the guesthouse on the evening of February 19, 1996, and that the Congress leader had spent half an hour there. The girl had been raped by several persons at the guesthouse.

Dharmarajan, who was the first to rape the girl, was the only one of the 42 accused whose conviction was upheld by the high court in January 2005. However, his punishment of life term was commuted to five years by the court. Dharmarajan was on bail at the time and went into hiding. He has been missing since then.

Speaking from a hideout in Mysore, Dharmarajan told the channel he had picked up Kurien from Vandiperiyar, about 15 km away from Kumali, in his car and taken him to the guesthouse. He added that the chief investigating officer in the case, Siby Mathews, then a DIG, had compelled him not to reveal Kurien's name. "I was tortured not to divulge the name of Kurien," he said.

"Kurien contacted me through local Congress leader Jacob Stephen (the 10th accused in the case). When we (the accused) were subjected to identification parade, the same was not done for Kurien," Dharmarajan told the TV channel.

He also added that while the girl had identified Kurien later in a newspaper photo and called him "Baji", that was actually the name of another person.

According to Dharmarajan, Hindu Nair leader G Sukumaran Nair had wrongly testified that Kurien was with him the night of the assault, at the Nair Service Society office in Changanassery, to save Kurien.

Dharmarajan said he will surrender to the police in a few days, as per a recent Supreme Court order setting aside the acquittal of the accused.

Kurien, who is under pressure to quit as the Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson, told the media that it should be probed why Dharmarajan had not raised the allegation in court. "If the police had prevented him from revealing my name, he could have done it in court," Kurien said.

Mathews said Dharmarjan was trying to create confusion now that the high court was slated to take up the case again. "I deny his allegations. His statement had been recorded by the judge during the trial," the then investigating offer said.

Mathews also said that two other investigating teams had probed Kurien's alleged role, and found nothing to substantiate it.

This is the third setback for Kurien in the case. Last week, a witness who had provided the Congress leader alibi for the evening of the alleged assault had retracted his statement, saying that he had met Kurien on February 18, 1996, and not the following day. Besides, the wife of P K Idukkula, a friend of Kurien, had said the Congress leader had come to their house in Thiruvalla at 4 pm and not 7 pm as earlier claimed.

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