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Thursday 18 September 2014

Five charged over Delhi gang rape

Published 03/01/2013 | 08:15

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Indian women offer prayers for a gang rape victim at Mahatma Gandhi memorial in New Delhi, India (AP)
Indian women march in Hyderabad to mourn the death of the gang rape victim (AP)

Authorities in India have filed rape and murder charges against five men accused of the gang rape of a 23-year-old university student on a New Delhi bus.

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The crime has horrified Indians and provoked a national debate about the treatment of women. Police said they plan to push for the death penalty in the case, as government officials promised new measures to protect women in the nation's capital.

Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan filed a case of rape, tampering with evidence, kidnapping, murder and other charges against the men in a new fast-track court in south Delhi inaugurated only the day before to deal specifically with crimes against women. He asked for a closed trial, and a hearing was set for Saturday.

The men charged are Ram Singh, 33, the bus driver; his brother Mukesh Singh, 26, who cleans buses for the same company; Pavan Gupta, 19, a fruit vendor; Akshay Singh, 24, a bus washer; and Vinay Sharma, 20, a fitness trainer. They did not appear in court.

A sixth suspect was listed as 17 and was expected to be tried in a juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility. Police also detained the owner of the bus on accusations that he used false documents to obtain permits to run the private bus service.

Media reports say police have gathered 30 witnesses, and the charges have been detailed in a document running more than 1,000 pages. The document has not been released yet. The Bar Association said its lawyers would not defend the suspects because of the nature of the crime, but the court is expected to appoint lawyers to defend them.

"Strict, strict, strict punishment should be given to them," said Ashima Sharma, an 18-year-old student attending a protest. "A very strict punishment ... that all men of India should be aware that they are not going to treat the women like the way they treated her."

The woman, who died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital on Saturday, was attacked on December 16 after boarding a bus with a male companion after watching an evening showing of the film Life of Pi at an upmarket mall. The vehicle was a charter bus that illegally picked up the two passengers.

The pair were attacked for hours as the bus drove through the city, even passing through police checkpoints during the assault. They were eventually dumped naked on the side of the road. The woman, whose name was not released, was assaulted with an iron bar and suffered severe internal injuries that eventually proved fatal.

The attack caused outrage across India, sparking protests and demands for tough new rape laws, better police protection and a sustained campaign to change society's views about women. The government has set up a series of panels to look into the incident and make reform recommendations, and women's activists hope the assault will mark a turning point for the country.

Press Association

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