Two-time Indian Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar will stand trial for allegedly murdering a fellow wrestler during a stadium brawl last year, a lawyer said Thursday.
Kumar and 17 others were charged by a Delhi court on Wednesday, more than a year after they were arrested over the death of 23-year-old junior grappler Sagar Dhankar following a long rivalry between two groups of wrestlers.
The court said investigators were able to produce enough evidence to proceed against Kumar, who has said he is innocent and accused police of framing him.
Prosecutors accuse the 39-year-old champion of being a "kingpin" in the sensational murder case of May 2021 that shocked India's sports fraternity.
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He has been charged with murder, kidnapping, rioting and using deadly weapons. Two of the accused are still on the run, according to prosecutors.
Kumar was arrested after a week-long manhunt following the deadly brawl that was fuelled by personal and professional rivalry between the two players.
Prosecutors allege Kumar and the other accused beat Dhankar and his friends with clubs and other weapons outside a Delhi stadium and left the victim to die.
He was seen in a video — which prosecutors say is authentic — assaulting the former junior wrestler, who died in hospital.
Pardeep Rana, a lawyer representing one of the accused, said his client was arrested on trumped-up charges.
"We will disprove the allegations before the court," Rana told AFP.
Kumar was viewed as one of India's finest sportsmen and is the only one to win two individual Olympic medals — a freestyle wrestling silver at the 2012 London Games and a bronze at the Beijing Olympics four years earlier.
He has also represented India in other international competitions and won three Commonwealth Games golds and one gold at the World Wrestling Championships in Moscow in 2010.
He was awarded India's highest honour for athletes in 2009.
The former champion is being held in a separate cell at Delhi's Tihar prison for security reasons.