A local court in Tamil Nadu’s Gobichettipalayam on Tuesday acquitted all nine people accused of abducting Kannada actor Rajkumar in 2000. The nine people were alleged to be accomplices of forest brigand Veerappan.

Additional District Judge K Mani accused the prosecution of not gathering enough evidence against the accused. “Not even an iota of evidence was produced to show the accused were accomplices of Veerappan,” Mani said, according to The News Minute.

The judge also said the actor’s family did not depose before the court during the trial and asked why no action was taken against them. The Madras High Court had in 2016 quashed the trial court’s order summoning his wife Parvathamma Rajkumar. She was suffering from Alzheimer’s and could not depose.

Veerappan and his associates had kidnapped Rajkumar, his son-in-law SA Govindaraj, relative Nagesh and assistant film director Nagappa on July 30, 2000 from the actor’s farmhouse in Thalavadi in Erode district. Nagappa managed to escape on September 28, but the others were held captive for 108 days in the Sathyamangalam forests, near Thalavadi. They were released on November 15, 2000.

The police filed a case against 14 people, including Veerappan. Three of them died during the trial and one person is yet to be arrested.

The Tamil Nadu Special Task Force killed Veerappan and two associates Sethukuli Govindan and Chandre Gowda in an operation on October 18, 2004. Rajkumar died of a cardiac arrest in 2006.

The abduction deteriorated the already-strained ties between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and created a tense situation in both the states.