Mongar dzongkhag court on November 30 sentenced 12 men to prison for vandalising 101 choetens in Mongar and Lhuentse.

Of the 12 men, five were sentenced to life.

Leki Khando, 34, from Silambi; Ugyen Tshewang, 33, from Thungdari in Drametse; Lhaten Dorji, 33; Rinchen Khando, 23, from Silambi gewog and Jurmey Namgyel, 26, from Wengkhar, Mongar, were found guilty of committing offences against the Ku, Sung, Thuk-ten or Zung.

The crime is graded a first-degree felony.

Leki Khando and Ugyen Tshewang were found guilty of vandalising 58 choetens from Mongar, Saling and Silambi gewogs from 2011 to 2016.

Leki Khando and Jurmey Namgyel vandalised a Jangchub choeten in Tsakaling gewog.

Leki Khando was found guilty of vandalising 59 choetens and the court sentenced him to 59 life imprisonments. Ugyen Tshewang was sentenced to 58 life imprisonments. The sentencing was concurrent.

Lhaten Dorji, 33, was sentenced to 29 life imprisonments for vandalising 29 choetens from 1997 to 2016 and attempting to vandalise four choetens in Silambi and Gongdue gewogs. The judgment was also concurrent.

Rinchen Khando, 23, was also found guilty of vandalising two choetens in Silambi. He was also given a concurrent sentencing for two life imprisonments.

Jurmey Namgyel, 26, vandalised six choetens. He was also given a concurrent sentencing for six life imprisonments.

Tshering Dorji, 27, from Wama in Silambi, Mongar, was sentenced to six years in prison for aiding and abetting Jurmey Namgyel to vandalise five choetens in Tsakaling and Chali gewogs in Mongar and Phagidung village in Lhuentse.

Ugyen Dorji, 23, Yeshi Dorji, 20, and Tashi Penjor, 23, from Tsakaling were sentenced to 26 years, five months and 19 days each in prison for vandalising two choetens in Tsakaling and two lhakhangs in Chali gewog. The judgment stated that they were not given life imprisonment because they were minors when they committed the crime.

It also stated that Tashi Penjor has vandalised one choeten, Ugyen Dorji vandalised two choetens and two lhakhangs while Yeshi Dorji has vandalised one choeten and two lhakhangs.

Pema Dorji from Tsakaling has vandalised eight choetens and he was sentenced to 28 years, five months and 19 days.

Yeshi Dorji and Tashi Penjor, in their statement to the court, submitted that they had vandalised the choetens and lhakhangs after Ugyen Dorji’s brother-in-law, Sherab Gyeltshen, 20, asked them to bring dzees and pearls.

Sherab Gyeltshen, in his rebuttal, confessed to having ordered for dzees and pearls, promising to give them money and bicycles. Sherab Gyeltshen was, therefore, sentenced to six years in prison for solicitations.

A taxi driver, Sonam Dorji, 44, from Kanglung in Trashigang, was sentenced to two years and 11 months in prison for criminal attempt to illegal purchase or sale.

In his rebuttal, he confessed before the court that Sherab Gyeltshen travelled in his taxi from Tsirang to get the dzees and pearls from Mongar.

The prosecutor from Office of the Attorney General, Kinley Tshering, said that it took time to investigate and charge the cases to court because it involved more than 100 choetens and two lhakhangs.

The case was registered at the court on April 4 this year.

Tashi Phuntsho |  Mongar