A Special Investigation Team of Karnataka Police on Thursday said they have arrested a vegetable farmer in Belagavi district for his alleged role in the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, PTI reported. Officials identified the accused as 37 year old Bharat Kurne alias Tomatar, who also runs an eatery.
Unidentified officials said Kurne was one of the two men who waited in a car for the shooter and his accomplice after they had killed Lankesh outside her home in Bengaluru in September 2017. The two were then taken to a safe house on the outskirts of the city, The Indian Express reported.
Kurne, believed to be a member of a Hindutva group, was produced before the First Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court that remanded him to judicial custody, The New Indian Express reported. The court directed the investigators to seek permission for police custody from the court of the third additional chief metropolitan magistrate.
The investigators told the court that a farm owned by Kurne was used to train several people recruited by a radical Hindutva outfit in shooting and physical combat. The initial investigation also found that Waghmare had trained at the site. “He [Kurne] has a three-acre land at a remote location in a forest area in Khanapur,” the police statement read. “There, the accused were trained in firing air guns and other firearms.”
The police submitted Kurne’s confessional statement to the court. Kurne was among the four accused who moved into a rented room days before Lankesh was murdered. They vacated the place soon after the murder, the reports said.
Those arrested till now have been identified as 37-year-old KT Naveen Kumar; Sujeet Kumar, 38; Manohar Edave, 29; Amol Kale, 37; Amit Degwekar, 38; 26-year-old Waghmare; Mohan Nayak, 50; Ganesh Miskin, 27; Amit Baddi, 28; Rajesh Bangera, 50; and 37-year-old Suresh Kumar.
A forensic report submitted to a court in Bengaluru said the same gun was used to kill Lankesh and Kannada writer MM Kalburgi, who was assassinated in Dharwad in Karnataka in 2015.