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Sunday 22 April 2018

Police investigate alleged rape of Irish woman working in India

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

POLICE in India are investigating the alleged rape of a young Irish woman who was working with an aid agency in the country.

The woman is understood to have arrived in the country only recently and was working with an NGO. She had been celebrating her 21st birthday at a night spot in Kolkata when she met student Sujoy Mitra (35), the man accused of raping her.

According to local reports, Mr Mitra brought the woman to his house in the Kalighat area of the city and this is where the alleged rape occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Mr Mitra was arrested by police later that day and yesterday appeared in court in Alipore for a preliminary hearing where he was remanded in police custody until Wednesday.

The young woman had travelled to India to work with an NGO based in Darjeeling  and had celebrated her birthday on Friday night.

She reported the alleged rape to police the following day and used photographs from her mobile phone to identify her attacker. Following his brief court appearance, Mr Mitra's defence counsel, Dibyendu Bhattach, denied the Irish woman's version of events to local media.

"After accompanying Mitra to his house, the lady stayed with him for nearly two hours and even had breakfast," he claimed. "The allegations are totally false and motivated. My client is a teetotaller," he added.

Mr Mitra was a hotel management student in the United States but returned to his native India to renew his visa. The alleged rape of the Irish woman is the latest in a string of high-profile sex attacks in India, some of which have involved foreign women.

CRIMES

Last December, a 23-year-old Indian woman was gang-raped on a bus that was being driven through New Delhi. She died from her injuries two weeks later. The case sparked mass protests and calls for tougher action to combat sex crimes against women.

In March, a 39-year-old Swiss woman was gang-raped as she camped in a remote forest in central India with her boyfriend, while that same month, a 31-year-old British woman was forced to leap from a second-floor hotel balcony to escape an attacker in the city of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal.

The attacks have led to a sharp fall in tourist numbers to India, especially among women. The number of foreigners visiting India is reported to be down 25pc, with the number of women travellers down 35pc.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said its has been in contact with the family and is providing consular assistance through Dublin. The Irish embassy is based in New Delhi.

The department's website says women should use caution when travelling in India and that recent sex attacks show foreign women are at risk.

"Tourists have been the victims of sexual assault in Agra, Goa, Delhi, Bangalore, Madyha Pradesh and Rajasthan. Women travellers often receive unwanted attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment.

"Women travellers should exercise caution when travelling in India," it adds.

Irish Independent

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