FAMILY and friends of a Tibetan Buddhist who was stabbed to death in China in an apparent financial dispute have called for his alleged killers to be spared the death penalty.

Lawyers acting for the family of Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche said it was hoped the Buddhist doctrine of non-violence would be reflected in the court's sentence.

Mr Rinpoche, who founded the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West, Samye Ling Monastery in the Scottish Borders, was killed in the Chinese city of Chengdu last October.

His nephew Loga and assistant Lama Chime Wangyal were also found dead.

Sculptor Tudeng Gusha and his nephew Ciren Banyue have been on trial for murder in the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court in Sichuan Province, where judges have adjourned to consider their verdict.

Professor Chaoyang Xiang, a representative for Mr Rinpoche's family, told the court: "Akong Rinpoche made great contributions to the development of Tibetan Buddhism and humanitarian, charitable and medical work.

"His death has caused a huge reaction in the country and all over the world. His followers and the people who received his grace felt great outrage and they couldn't understand why such a kind, amiable and respected elder suffered such atrocities.

"Finally Akong Rinpoche's friends from the West told us that even though what the defendants did is intolerable, one of the doctrines of the Buddha is ahimsa (non-violence) and they hope such doctrine could be reflected in the judgment of this court."

It is understood the men were killed in a dispute over money which Mr Gusha claimed he was owed for a number of statues he had carved during a five-year stay in Scotland and London.

However, a spokesman for Samye Ling monastery has said there was an agreement in place that the sculptor would receive only expenses.

The three judges in the case will deliver their verdict at a later date.