Four convicted for Delhi gang-rape; sentencing tomorrow

A trial court in Delhi today convicted four accused in the fatal gang-rape of a physiotherapy student on a moving bus on 16 December last year - a crime that sparked nationwide protests and forced the government to bring in stringent rape laws.

The 23-year-old woman was brutally assaulted by six men and died two weeks later. Her death led to days of huge protests across India in a wave of unprecedented anger.

The four men are expected to be sentenced on Wednesday. A fifth, said by police to be the most brutal of the rapists, was found to be under 18 years of age, and has already been sentenced to a mere three years in a juvenile remand home.

The sixth suspect, Ram Singh, was found dead in his cell in March. Prison officials said they believed he hanged himself but his family allege he was murdered.

The remaining four convicted today - Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta – face the death sentence. They have denied charges including rape and murder, and lawyers for three of the men said they would appeal against the convictions.

The verdict was delivered by additional sessions judge Yogesh Khanna inside the tiny courtroom in front of a select group including the defence lawyers, the families of both the accused and the victim and a restricted pool of reporters. The courtroom was nonetheless jam-packed.

As Judge Khanna read out his verdict the parents of the victim broke down. Outside the court the verdict was relayed to a large group of media persons representing both Indian and international organisations.

A small protest broke out, with demonstrators calling for the death penalty for all four men.

Earlier in the day the accused were brought to court in a prison van and driven in through a side entrance past waiting camera crews. The victim's family arrived as well after visiting a temple to offer prayers.

Dozens of reporters as well as protesters calling for harsh sentencing gathered outside the court to await the verdict.

"Hang Them! Hang Them! Hang Them!" the demonstrators chanted soon after the verdict was passed down.

"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," Judge Yogesh Khanna pronounced.

Arguments ahead of sentencing will begin on Wednesday morning, he said.

The rapists were on an out-of-service bus when they tricked the 23-year-old woman and a male friend into boarding it.

Police said the assailants beat both of them and then raped the woman. She died in a Singapore hospital on 29 December - 10 days after the attack - from massive internal injuries. Before she died she was able to testify against her attackers from her hospital bed.

Her parents welcomed Tuesday's convictions.

"We are happy with the conviction. Now we expect the judge to sentence all of them to death," the victim's father told Indian media after the verdict.

"We will get complete closure only if all the accused are wiped off from the face of the earth. This is what they did to our daughter most brutally."

The charges of which the four were convicted include gang-rape, murder, attempt to murder, unnatural offences, destruction of evidence, and dacoity. The court said the dying declarations of the victim, statements of 85 prosecution witnesses, DNA, forensic and electronic evidence proved the guilt of the accused.

The victim had said in her dying declaration that the accused during the rape inserted iron rods into her body, ripped out her internal organs, beat her and bit her all over.

The victim and her male friend had spent the evening watching a movie at a mall in south Delhi when they were picked up by a private bus.

The six men on the bus subjected the couple to a horrifying 45-minute ordeal that ended with both of them thrown out of the bus, virtually unconscious and naked In the bitterly cold December night.