India's ex-opposition leader pleads not guilty to defamation

India's opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi arrives at a court in Ahmadabad, India, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Gandhi appeared before a court he

India's opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi arrives at a court in Ahmadabad, India, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Gandhi appeared before a court he

India's opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi arrives at a court in Ahmadabad, India, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Gandhi appeared before a court he

India's opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi arrives at a court in Ahmadabad, India, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. Gandhi appeared before a court he

NEW DELHI (AP) — The former leader of India's opposition Congress party and descendant of a string of prime ministers has pleaded not guilty in two separate defamation cases filed against him in Gujarat state.

Rahul Gandhi entered the pleas in the two cases on Thursday and Friday.

Both cases were filed by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and involve statements made during an election campaign in April 2019.

In one, Gandhi is accused of referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a thief, and in the other, of calling India's home minister an accused murderer.

He was charged with criminal defamation, which provides a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment.

A senior fellow at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy in Bangalore, Alok Prasanna, says Gandhi is unlikely to be convicted.