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Asia-pacific

Delhi gang rape trial begins in fast-track court

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-01-21

The trial of five men charged with raping and murdering a young woman aboard a New Delhi bus began in a fast-track court on Monday, as the Supreme Court agreed to consider a request to move the trial outside of the Indian capital.

Legal proceedings in a gang rape case that has sparked protests about the treatment of woman began in a new fast-track court set up specifically to deal with crimes against women in New Delhi.

Five men appeared in the special court on Monday afternoon to face charges they raped and murdered a 23-year-old student aboard a moving bus in the capital last month.

A sixth suspect in the attack claims to be a juvenile and his case is being handled separately.

The victim’s father called for swift justice and for the attackers to be hanged.

"We have finished the mourning rituals for my daughter in the village but our mourning will not end until the court passes down its verdict. My daughter's soul will only rest in peace after the court punishes the men,” he said.

"It is the duty of the court and the judges to ensure that the final order to punish all the accused is handed down quickly and all the men are hanged.

"No man has the right to live after committing such a heinous crime."

The trial is being held in a fast-track court to circumvent India's notoriously slow justice system.

But in a move that could lead to a significant delay to proceedings, the Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a request to transfer the trial to a venue outside New Delhi.

M.L. Sharma, counsel for defendant Mukesh Singh, said it would be impossible for his client to receive a fair hearing in the city where the December 16 attack took place.

The application for a transfer will be considered by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, but in the meantime proceedings are expected to go ahead in the fast-track court, starting at 2:30 pm (0900 GMT).

The men face murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping and other charges, with prosecutors expected to demand the death penalty.

Defence lawyers say their clients will enter not-guilty pleas and accuse police of torturing the adult defendants -- aged between 19 and 35 -- to confess.

But prosecutors say they have DNA evidence linking the defendants to the attack in which the student and a male companion were assaulted on a bus as it was driven around the city, having been picked up after seeing a movie.

The prosecutors also have the victim's hospital-bed declaration before her death and testimony from her 28-year-old companion who took part in identification parades after the ordeal.

Senior prosecutor Rajiv Mohan, who has vowed to seek the death penalty for the "heinous" crime, has said that "we have sufficient evidence against all the accused" to secure a conviction.

The woman, a promising student whose father worked extra shifts as an airport baggage handler to educate her, suffered massive intestinal injuries during the assault in which she was raped and violated with an iron bar.

She died 13 days later after the government airlifted her to a Singapore hospital in a last-ditch bid to save her life.

Though gang rapes and sexual harassment are commonplace in India, the case has touched a nerve, leading to an outpouring of criticism of the treatment of women in Indian society and the apparent rise in violent sex crime in recent years.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-01-21

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