Death penalty sought for New Delhi rapists

Four men convicted of gang rape and murder of student to be sentenced on Friday, as prosecution seeks death penalty.

    Indian prosecutors have demanded the death penalty for four men convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist, who was attacked on a bus in New Delhi last December.

    Public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan on Wednesday said the "extreme brutality" of the crime justified the maximum penalty of hanging.

    The men had used a metal rod and their hands to pull the woman's organs from her body after raping her, the prosecution said. Her injuries were so severe that she died in hospital two weeks after the attack.

    Judge Yogesh Khanna, who found the four guilty of "cold-blooded" murder on Tuesday, told the court that sentencing would take place at 2:30pm (09:00 GMT) on Friday. The minimum sentence the men could receive is life in prison.

    V K Anand, defence lawyer of one of the convicts, said his client would appeal the guilty verdict [Reuters]

    In his 240-page judgment, Khanna found bus cleaner Akshay Kumar Singh, gym instructor Vinay Sharma, fruit-seller Pawan Gupta, and unemployed Mukesh Singh guilty of acting with premeditation when they abducted and raped the young woman on December 16.

    One of the men called out his innocence as police drove him into the courthouse early on Wednesday. It was not clear which of the four men was shouting, because his face was obscured behind the police van's heavy metal mesh, but he repeatedly called out, "I am innocent! I am innocent!" as the van drove past a scrum of reporters.

    Capital punishment in India is applied only in "the rarest of rare" cases. Defence lawyers, who have already announced plans to appeal Tuesday's verdict, are set to argue that the death sentence is not warranted.

    Public anger

    The rape and murder case brought simmering public anger over sexual violence in India to the boil.

    Speaking to AFP from their home in Delhi last week, the girl's father reiterated his calls that the guilty should hang.

    "We will not accept anything below the death penalty," said the father, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his late daughter.

    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.

    Father of the victim

    "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."

    The government, stung by the mass protests that followed the attack, has introduced tough new anti-rape laws which include provisions for some sex attackers to be executed even if a victim survives.

    There was outrage last month when a juvenile who was also convicted of taking part in the attack was sentenced to three years to a remedial home - the maximum punishment allowed by law.

    A fifth adult defendant, bus driver Ram Singh, was found hanging in his prison cell in March while awaiting trial.

    The seven-month trial featured DNA evidence linking the four to the crime scene, statements from a male companion who was beaten up during the attack, as well as the victim's dying testimony.

    The victim and her male friend had spent the evening at the movies when they were picked up by a bus.

    But rather than take them home, the group subjected the pair to a horrifying 45-minute ordeal before throwing them out of the bus, virtually unconscious and naked.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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