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All four Delhi gang-rape suspects found guilty

© Photo: AFP

Video by Mandakini Gahlot

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-10

The four defendants accused of the brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student in Delhi last December were found guilty Tuesday and could now face the death penalty. The crime sparked mass protests over the treatment of women in India.

Four men were found guilty Tuesday of raping and murdering a medical student on a Delhi bus last December - a crime that shocked the country, sparked mass protests and led to a reform of India’s rape laws.

All four could be hanged for the murder conviction, with arguments on sentencing set to begin Wednesday.

Announcing the verdict, Judge Yogesh Khanna said: "I convict all of the accused. They have been found guilty of gang-rape, unnatural offences, destruction of evidence… and for committing the murder of the helpless victim."

The defendants were briefly brought in to the court and then taken away by police.

The parents of one of the convicts left the crowded court in tears and his mother threw herself at the feet of one of the lawyers, sobbing.

The parents and brother of the victim were also inside the courtroom.

Brutal crime that sickened a nation

Prosecutors had alleged that bus cleaner Akshay Kumar Singh, gym instructor Vinay Sharma, fruit-seller Pawan Gupta, and unemployed Mukesh Singh lured the woman and a male friend onto the bus on the night of December 16 as the pair returned home from watching a movie at a shopping mall in south Delhi.

They then beat up and robbed the male friend before taking turns in raping the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and tortured her with a metal bar as the bus drives around the capital.

After more than an hour, the bloodied young couple were dumped by a main road leading to the international airport, narrowly avoiding death when the gang try to reverse over them with the vehicle.

The male friend later recovered, but the woman’s internal injuries were so severe that she died in a Singapore hospital two weeks after the attack.

A total of six suspects were arrested following a police investigation. Ram Singh, the alleged driver of the bus and one of the main accused, was later found dead in his cell after an apparent suicide, though his family and lawyer allege murder.

Another suspect, a teenager, was trialled as a juvenile and on August 31 was found guilty of rape and murder and sentenced to three years in a correctional facility - the maximum possible sentence for the teenager under Indian law.

The brutality of the alleged crime sparking a national debate on the treatment of women in India, while thousands of people took to the streets after the attack to protest against the government’s poor record of keeping women safe and putting rapists behind bars.

Under immense public pressure, the government fast-tracked the trials of the accused in an effort to bring about a swift verdict. Rape trials in India’s congested courts typically take anywhere from five to ten years to complete.

Public anger over the case also led to India's parliament passing tougher rape laws in March this year, which include a provision for the death sentence if the victim dies as well as a minimum 20-year prison sentence for gang-rape.

Victim’s parents call for death penalty

Although trial Judge Khanna has the discretion to sentence the convicted men to life imprisonment, he is under pressure from the public to hand down death sentences.

In an interview last wek, the victim’s father told AFP: "We will not accept anything below the death penalty.

"Anything other than the gallows for these men will not be right. It would send out the wrong message, people will lose trust in our judicial system."

He added: "If all four are sentenced to death, I can't imagine anything being better than that. Nothing could get better.... We will get closure."

At least one of the four convicted men will appeal the guilty verdict, his lawyer said after the verdict.

VK Anand, defence lawyer for Mukesh Singh, told reporters outside the courtroom: "My client was simply driving the bus. He confessed fairly that he was driving the bus but he did not know what went on inside."

Mukesh Singh had initially denied being present, but during the trial he changed his story and said he had been driving the bus. He said his three co-accused had been on the bus, but he insisted he had not seen anything as the interior lights had been switched off after the victim and her friend had boarded.

All four of the convicted men had pleaded not guilty. Two of the suspects, Gupta and Sharma, said they were at a party in a park when the attack took place. Akshay Singh said he was hundreds of kilometres away in his village in Bihar state.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-09-10

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