New Delhi: Balesh Dhankhar, a prominent BJP activist, is facing trial after being charged with 13 counts of sexual assault, 17 of intimate recordings without consent, six of using intoxicating substances to commit offence and assault with act of indecency.

Dhankhar, who is the founder-president of the ‘Overseas Friends of BJP’ in Australia and a former associate of the Hindu Council of Australia, played a major role in organizing the reception of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Sydney, during Modi’s Australia visit in 2014. According to Australian media reports, Dhankhar had boasted about his access to Modi and had posted his photos with Modi on his social media accounts.

The police said that the activist had filmed himself with a camera hidden in an alarm clock, sexually assaulting five women he had lured to Hotel Hilton, with fake job interview offers.

A local newspaper had quoted Dr. Yadu Singh, a community leader, saying that Dhankhar had also been involved in organizing community rallies for Modi in Sydney, in November 2014. Dr. Singh, who spoke in relation to the charges on Dhankhar, said that the persons concerned had not duly responded to the reports in a Sydney community newspaper on Dhankhar’s activities. “These allegations are obviously serious and the Australian judicial process will surely take them to the rightful conclusion in due course,” Dr. Singh added.

On Tuesday, Sydney Morning Herald reported that the prosecutor told the jury at the opening of the trial that Dhankhar was ‘interested’ in young Korean women. He had allegedly posted advertisements on ‘Gumtree’ on translation work for Korean-English speakers, and met them at the bar of the Hotel Hilton, which was near his apartment in Sydney.

The report said that Dhankhar had a “state of mind to satisfy his particular sexual interest” by posing as an interviewer and lying to them, “so he could commit sexual acts on them and make intimate recordings of them – and do so whilst they were under the influence of a substance.”

Sydney Morning Herald, in its report on the court room proceedings, said that a young lady recalled having ice cream and one glass of wine at Dhankhar’s house, but nothing after that, until a late-night call to her boyfriend. Rather, she remembered being naked and feeling dirty and dizzy, she remembered bright lights, a condom wrapper and experiencing pain.

The jury was told that Dhankhar had a tendency to record intimate images as well as videos of unconscious Asian and Korean women.

Rebecca Mitchell, who is Dhankhar’s lawyer, admitted that Dhankhar had a sexual interest in women, used fake ads to meet them, and was ‘deceptive’. She stated that Dhankhar did not dispute having a sexual relationship with the women.

The advocate, however, argued, “Dhankhar’s case is that each of the complainants consented to sexual acts they engaged in but the prosecution needed to prove Dhankhar’s guilt.”

The activist also disputed that the images were taken without consent of the women and that he drugged them, Mitchell said.

Officer in-charge of the case Sergeant Katrina Gyde told the court that a hard drive, containing 47 videos of the accused having sexual intercourse, was found in Dhankhar’s backpack.

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Davanagere: Two sanitation workers died after exposure to toxic air while they were cleaning a municipality drainagein Basavanakote village of Jagaluru taluk on Monday evening.

The deceased sanitation workers have been identified as Sathyappa (45) and Mailappa (42).

The duo is said to have been working without taking precautionary measures, as ordered by the panchayat development officer (PDO).

The workers were admitted to the government hospital in Arasikere on having fallen ill after breathing the toxic air of the drainage. Since their condition worsened, they were shifted to the Davanagere district government hospital, but the workers died, having failed to respond to the treatment.

The locals have blamed the government officer for the workers’ death, saying, “The sanitation workers went ahead with their work as ordered by the PDO, without any masks and gloves. The negligible attitude and lapse on the part of the PDO has caused the death of the workers.”

Bilichodu Police have filed a case in this regard and the investigation is underway.