Indian gang-rape suspects formally charged

Friday 04 January 2013 11.31
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The attack has led to calls for stronger police action against sexual assault suspects
The attack has led to calls for stronger police action against sexual assault suspects
There was a strong police presence outside the court this morning
There was a strong police presence outside the court this morning

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

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.

The court was only inaugurated yesterday to deal specifically with crimes against women.

Mr Mohan 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.

A sixth suspect was listed as 17 and is expected to be tried in a juvenile court.

The maximum sentence in that court would be three years in a reform facility.

The 16 December attack on the woman, who died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital on Saturday, has caused outrage across India.

It has sparked protests and demands for tough new rape laws, better police protection for women and a sustained campaign to change society's views about women.

Indian Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said the accused should be tried swiftly, but cautioned that they needed to be given a fair trial and not subjected to mob justice.

"Let us not lose sight of the fact that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he told reporters yesterday, while inaugurating the new fast-track court.

Politician arrested

Meanwhile, in a sign of the anger across the country over the New Dehli case, police in the northeastern state of Assam arrested a leader of the ruling Congress party on accusations he raped a woman in a village in the early hours of the morning.

Footage on Indian television showed local women surrounding the man, ripping off his shirt and repeatedly slapping him across the face.

Police said the man, Bikram Singh Brahma, was visiting the village of Santipur on the Bhutan border when he entered a woman's house and raped her at 2am.

Amid the screams, villagers ran to the home and captured the man, said GP Singh, a senior police officer in the area.

"We are taking this issue very seriously," Mr Singh said.