India coronavirus: Tablighi Jamaat leader on manslaughter charge over Covid-19
The leader of a prominent Muslim group has been charged with manslaughter in India after a meeting it held in Delhi spawned numerous Covid-19 clusters.
Police say Muhammad Saad Khandalvi ignored two notices to end the event at a mosque in the capital in March.
The event has been linked to 1,023 cases across 17 states – believed to have been spread by infected foreign attendees.
Mr Saad and his Tablighi Jamaat group have denied any wrongdoing.
Delhi police said that Mr Saad had been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which means he will not be able to apply for bail.
The charges were brought against him while he was in self-isolation.
Police say the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area, which began on 3 March, was not ended even when India announced a lockdown on 24 March.
However, the organisation says they had suspended the event and asked everyone to leave as soon as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that there would be a day-long national curfew on 22 March.
While many were able to leave, they say, others were stranded because states began to seal their borders the following day, and two days later, India went into lockdown, suspending buses and trains.
The mosque’s premises include dormitories that can house hundreds of people.
The organisers say they informed the local police about all of this and continued to co-operate with medical officers who came to inspect the premises.