A firebrand Hindu nationalist nun accused of participating in the deadly bombing of a mosque appeared in court Friday, two weeks after she won a parliamentary seat in India’s election.
Sadhvi Pragya Thakur is being tried on terrorism and criminal conspiracy charges over the 2008 attack in western India that killed six people and injured more than 100 others.
The MP for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appeared before a special terror offenses court in Mumbai, her first appearance since charges were laid last October.
Thakur, 49, had been instructed by the judge to attend at least one hearing per week. The court granted her an exemption on Thursday due to ill health.
Police say her motorbike was used to carry the explosives used in the attack in Malegaon, and that she took part in a key planning meeting before it was staged.
Thakur spent nine years in detention as India’s notoriously slow legal system dragged before she was bailed in 2017.
She won an emphatic victory in India’s mammoth general election, taking 62 percent of the vote for a seat in the central industrial city of Bhopal.
Indian election rules allow anyone to stand for office as long as they have not been convicted of a crime.
Thakur only joined the BJP in April and the party stunned many when it named her as a parliamentary candidate the next month.
She courted controversy throughout the campaign, telling journalists that the radical Hindu assassin of Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi was a “patriot” — earning her a rebuke from Modi.
Thakur also raised eyebrows for claiming that drinking cow urine had helped cure her cancer and extolling the benefits of drinking a concoction of milk, butter, and cow dung.
The opposition Congress party, which was trounced in the election, have denounced her as symbolic of the rise of extreme Hindu nationalism in India under Modi.
The BJP has regularly jumped to her defense. Party president Amit Shah, now India’s home affairs minister, has called the terrorism charges against her “fake”.