New York: Less than a week before Dharun Ravi's sentencing on hate crime charges, hundreds of Indian-Americans participated in a rally in New Jersey protesting against his conviction, saying the former Rutgers student has been made a "scapegoat" and should not be jailed.

Nearly 600 Indian-Americans as well as people from various walks of life gathered in front of the Governor's office in New Jersey to show support for 20-year-old Ravi, convicted of bias intimidation and hate crime charges for spying on his gay roommate Tyler Clementi.

The supporters shouted slogans at the steps of the New Jersey State House and held placards that read 'Set Dharun free', 'Drop all charges', 'Justice not vengeance' and 'Grant Ravi bail.'

One sign included a statement by former Governor James McGreevey that said, "Don't make Dharun Ravi Our Anti-Gay Scapegoat."

The two-hour rally was attended by Ravi's parents who said he did not get a fair trial and urged for support to ensure justice for their son.

Ravi was not present at the rally.

Visibly tensed and downcast, Ravi's mother Sabitha broke down as she urged members of the media, who attended the trial and "knew he didn't get a fair trial", to "please wake up and then write something and bring some justice for Dharun."

She said in the days following the suicide of Clementi, media reports had slammed her son as a hateful person and passed judgement on him without knowing the facts.

Anil Kappa, an organiser of the rally, said there is "outrage" among people that Ravi was found guilty of hate crime even though he is not a homophobic and there is no proof he hated gays or had bias towards them.

"The charges levied on Ravi are wrong. He should never have been brought to court. He did not do anything out of bias or hate," Kappa said.

He said the entire case has destroyed Ravi's life and there should not be any further injustice to him.

Ravi is "not (keeping) very well. What would you expect. He has been living in an exile in his home for the last two years and this is getting even worse now. He does not even go out for a sandwich," Kappa said.

Ravi will be sentenced by state Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman in a New Brunswick court on May 21 and faces up to 10 years in prison and possible deportation to his native India.

He was convicted after a three-week trial in March for spying on the sexual encounter of Clementi, who later committed suicide.

(Agencies)

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