A young Iranian charity worker, who has dedicated six years of her life to helping orphans in India, has been found guilty of “manslaughter” over the disappearance of a local child during an unfortunate picnic accident.
Narges Kalbasi Ashtari has been embroiled in a criminal case following the accident in 2014, when a five-year-old boy disappeared during a riverside picnic organized by the 28-year-old Iranian charity worker in India’s eastern Odisha State.
The boy belonged to a couple, who worked for Ashtari and were also present at the scene when the child went missing.
Last week, an Indian court convicted Ashtari of “involuntary manslaughter” over the disappearance of the child, who is feared drowned, sentencing her to a year in prison and paying 4,300 dollars in fine.
In a recent interview with PressTV, Ashtari said, “I will appeal to court, hope to get justice in later stages”. She added, “I will continue to fight for rights of children”
Public prosecutor Sachidanand Khardanga claimed the 2014 incident occurred on the negligence of Ashtari, the head of the Prishan charity foundation.
However, Ashtari denied the charges and said there was no evidence to support such claims. She also said no proper investigation had been launched into the case and that no dead body had been found.
The activist grew up and went to school in Britain. Ms. Ashtari’s parents both died due to an incurable disease, so she decided to dedicate her life to serving orphans.
In 2011, Ashtari, then a Canada resident, moved to India’s rural areas to help poor and orphaned children.
The founder of Prishan orphanage home in the Rayagada district in Odisha, Ashtari is considered a mother to numerous under-privileged children.
Before the recent court ruling, she had issued a plea for help to her friends and colleagues.
In an interview with Iran Daily, Iranian consul general in Hyderabad, Hassan Nourian, described the verdict as “unfair,” saying he was appealing the court ruling.
“We have talked to Indian lawyers about the verdict. They believe the court ruling was not based on firm evidence because it lacks strong reasoning. The verdict is unfair because no corpse has been found. The police wanted to arrest Kalbasi Ashtari after the court hearing, but our colleagues had her released on bail,” he added.
Activists in Canada have launched an online campaign in support of Ashtari, who has been denied permission to leave India.
Hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition on change.org, which urges Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address Ashtari’s case.