Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lawyer: Trio charged in India rape to plead not guilty

By NBC News wire services

NEW DELHI -- Three of the men accused of raping and murdering an Indian student in a moving bus will plead not guilty to the charges, their lawyer said on Wednesday, citing lapses in the police investigation.

Five men have been charged for the assault on the woman in a case that has provoked such outrage that lawyers in the district where the case is being heard have refused to defend the men.

Manohar Lal Sharma, who will represent the bus driver and the main accused, his brother and another man, said the case must go to trial so that the evidence police have presented can be tested in court.

"We are only hearing what the police are saying. This is manipulated evidence. It's all on the basis of hearsay and presumption," said Sharma.

It is not yet known if two other accused men have a lawyer, while a sixth accused will be tried separately because he is a minor.

Five men, accused of the rape and murder of a medical student in India have appeared in court. If convicted they face the death penalty. The attack on a bus three weeks ago sparked outrage and violent protests in the country. ITV's Geraint Vincent reports.

The five defendants are scheduled to appear at another pre-trial hearing on Thursday that is expected to result in the case being sent to a special "fast-track" court. Indian courts are notoriously slow, with some cases dragging on for decades.?

Authorities have charged the men with murder, rape and other crimes that could bring them the death penalty. The crime caused nationwide outrage, leading to massive protests.

Blood stains
A sixth suspect, who is 17 years old, is expected to be tried in a juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility.

Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said last week that a DNA test confirmed that the blood of the victim matched blood stains found on the clothes of all the accused.

On Sunday, two of the defendants offered to become "approvers," or informers against the others, according to reporters present at the hearing. The two were presumably seeking lighter sentences.

The companion of the student recounted in a television interview last week how the pair was attacked for 2 1/2 hours on a New Delhi bus before being thrown on the side of the road, where passersby ignored them and police debated jurisdiction issues before helping them. The student died at a Singapore hospital weeks after the Dec. 16 attack.

The attack has led to calls for tougher rape laws and reforms of a police culture that often blames rape victims and refuses to file charges against accused attackers. The nation's top law enforcement official said the country needs to crack down on crimes against women.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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