World

High security in India ahead of verdict in guru's rape trial

Several cities in north India are under a security lockdown ahead of a verdict in a rape trial involving a controversial and hugely popular spiritual leader.

Tens of thousands of followers of the flamboyant guru, or leader, of the quasi-religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda have gathered in the town of Panchkula where a special court is set to announce a verdict on Friday.

The guru, who calls himself Saint Dr. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, has denied the charges.

Thousands of police and paramilitary soldiers have spread out in Panchkula and its nearby areas fearing violence in the event of a guilty verdict.

The sect claims to have 50 million followers and runs a spiritual empire that promotes vegetarianism and campaigns against drug addiction.