July 21, 2005

India jails insurance employees for Osama campaign

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An Indian court jailed five employees
of an insurance firm for sedition after they glorified Osama
bin Laden in a sales campaign, police said on Thursday.

The internal campaign, named "Mission Jehad," addressed
sales agents as "Dear terrorists" and compared selling life
insurance policies to killing people, the Times of India
newspaper said.

The posters were used at a meeting of sales agents for the
ICICI Prudential Insurance Company in the northern Indian city
of Kanpur.

"Kill 10, take a branded T-shirt and be the best terrorist
in the group," agents were told on posters ostensibly signed by
bin Laden, the newspaper said.

"Jehad begins from July 18-20," the posters said,
announcing the start of the sales campaign.

In a statement, the company said the slogan was an internal
campaign confined to its Kanpur team and not a public scheme.

"The company condemns the choice of theme and sincerely
regrets any sentiments that may have been hurt," the statement
said, adding that it had started an investigation.

Police in Kanpur said five employees, including the branch
manager, had been arrested on Tuesday and charged with

"We saw the posters and we decided to take action and book
them for sedition," police officer R.K. Parasher told Reuters
from Kanpur.

A Kanpur court sent the five to jail on Wednesday saying
the Indian government recognized bin Laden as a terrorist and
that their sales motto glorified him.

It was not clear how long the jail terms were, but the
accused were given the right to appeal to a higher court.
The company is a joint venture between ICICI Bank Ltd., India's
second-largest bank, and Prudential, Britain's second-biggest
listed insurer.

(Additional reporting by Sharat Pradhan in LUCKNOW)