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(Compass) – The High Court of Gujarat, India will hear an appeal in early February regarding the murder conviction of five tribal Christians who were sentenced to life imprisonment last year for killing a Hindu fundamentalist. The case stems from a 2001 clash between Hindu and Christian villagers in the Valsad district. During the melee, a Bajrang Dal activist was struck on the head and died of his injuries three days later. Local Christians claim that repeated attacks by Hindu fundamentalists against tribal Christians triggered the clash. The Rev. Johnson Barnabas of the Friends Missionary Prayer Band told Compass that the five tribal Christians are facing an uphill battle to prove their innocence. “The family members are still living in a fear of further persecution, as tension can erupt again if the Hindu villagers come to know that Christians have appealed the conviction.”