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Gandhis Given Bail, Deny Corruption Charges

  • Anjana Pasricha

India's Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, front, and her son and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, left, addresses the media about her corruption accusation in New Delhi, India, Dec. 19, 2015. The Gandhis deny the allegations.

India's Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, front, and her son and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, left, addresses the media about her corruption accusation in New Delhi, India, Dec. 19, 2015. The Gandhis deny the allegations.

A judge in India granted bail Saturday to Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul Gandhi, who have been accused of using party funds to to acquire the properties and assets of a newspaper worth about $300 million.

The hearing in a heavily guarded New Delhi courtroom lasted no more than a few minutes. Bail was granted without any conditions beyond a requirement that each of them post a personal bond of about $750.

Hundreds of Congress Party members cheered as Sonia Gandhi, who for a decade was India’s most powerful politician, left the courthouse after the hearing. She accused the government of deliberately targeting its political rivals and using government agencies to do so. She said the opposition would not be intimidated by such tactics.

The National Herald newspaper in question was established in 1938 by Jawaharlal Nehru, Rahul Gandhi's great-grandfather and independent India's first prime minister. The newspaper shut down in 2008.

Subramaniam Swamy, a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, brought the graft case against the Gandhis in 2012, but it gained interest only after a court summoned them to answer the charges last year.

The graft allegations have led to a bitter spat between the Congress Party and the BJP. Congress lawmakers have paralyzed Parliament for days, holding up legislation.

Rahul Gandhi, who is vice president of the Congress Party, accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of making false allegations. He said he and the Congress Party would not bow down and would continue their fight for the poor and the weak.

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, junior minister for parliamentary affairs, sharply criticized Congress Party leaders for declaring the case was a "vendetta" against the opposition. Legal battles should be fought inside courtrooms, Naqvi said.

In India’s slow-moving justice system, the case is likely to drag on for years. The next hearing has been set for February 20.

Political analysts say the Congress Party will use the case to re-energize its rank and file. The party suffered its worst defeat in national elections last year.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has ruled India for more than five decades, since the nation gained independence.

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