Four men given death sentences in Delhi gang rape

Taylor Scott International News

Four men given death sentences in Delhi gang rape (Agencies) / 13 September 2013 A judge sentenced four men to death on Friday for the fatal gang rape of an Indian student on a bus last December, triggering applause inside the packed courtroom. Here is a timeline of the major events leading up to sentencing on Friday of four adults for the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus last December. December 16, 2012:  The physiotherapy student goes out for an early evening screening of the “Life of Pi” at a cinema with her male friend at an upmarket shopping mall in south Delhi. Unable to track down a taxi or auto rickshaw, they are tricked onto a white private bus at around 9:00pm which they believe will take them back home. Inside, a group of six draw the urtains, beat up and rob the male friend and then take turns in raping the girl as the bus drives around the capital. After more than an hour, the bloodied young couple are dumped by a main road leading to the international airport, narrowly avoiding death when the gang try to reverse over them with the vehicle. December 17:  Police open a case and begin viewing CCTV footage from cameras fitted outside hotels, offices and government buildings. They identify a white bus with a missing wheel cap and “Yadav” written on both sides. The driver of the bus Ram Singh is arrested. Inside the vehicle, the seats and curtains have been washed. Police say forensic experts find strands of hair belonging to the victim and some of the attackers in the bus. December 18:  Fuelled by wall-to-wall television coverage and front-page newspaper articles, large numbers of women, students and other protestors hold demonstrations as the rape victim battles for life on a ventilator. December 22:  Police use batons, water cannon and tear gas on angry crowds who gather at the India Gate memorial in the heart of the city and outside the president’s official residence. All six accused have now been arrested and remanded in police custody. The government sets up an inquiry to suggest ways to enhance women’s safety in Delhi. December 24:  Two Delhi police officers are suspended for failing to halt the bus at checkpoints designed to stop suspicious vehicles. Roads across central Delhi are blocked as protests continue. December 26:  The gang-rape victim is airlifted to Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital after her condition deteriorates in Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. In one of many operations, doctors in India remove her intestines which were damaged when she was violated with an iron bar. December 29:  The woman dies from organ failure in Singapore, spurring more protests in New Delhi. January 28, 2013 : The Juvenile Justice Board declares one of the rapists is a minor, sparking a fierce debate about the criminal justice system for under-18s and demands for him to stand trial as an adult. February 2:  The five adult accused are charged with a string of offences, including murder, gang-rape, kidnapping and robbery. They are sent to judicial custody in Tihar Jail. Three weeks later, the juvenile is charged with the same offences. March 11:  Ram Singh, the main accused and a public hate-figure, is found dead in his cell after an apparent suicide. His family and lawyer allege murder. March 21:  India’s parliament completes the passing of a tougher rape law which includes a provision for the death sentence if the victim dies. It also provides for a minimum 20-year prison sentence for gang rape. August 31:  The juvenile suspect is found guilty of rape and murder and sentenced to three years in a correctional facility — the maximum possible sentence for the teenager under Indian law. September 10:  The four adult suspects — Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta — are found guilty of all charges. The judge says they committed a “cold-blooded” murder. September 13:  The court sentences to death Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh. Judge Yogesh Khanna told a court in the Indian capital that the case, which sparked widespread anger against the treatment of women in the country, fell into the “rarest of rare category”, which justified capital punishment. “In these times when crimes against women are on the rise, court cannot turn a blind eye to this gruesome act,” he said. As the courtroom burst into applause, the father of the 23-year-old victim told reporters that he was delighted with the sentence. “We are very happy,” said the father, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his late daughter. “Justice has been delivered,” he told reporters inside the court, flanked by his wife and sons. His wife said that her daughter’s “wish has been fulfilled at last”. One of the men, Vinay Sharma, broke down in tears as the sentence was announced, according to an AFP correspondent. All four suspects were teary eyed as they entered the cramped room to hear their punishment after they were convicted on Tuesday of a string of charges including murder and gang rape. There had been a huge clamour for the four — Sharma, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta, and Mukesh Singh — to be executed for their attack on the physiotherapy student and her male companion on December 16. After prosecution lawyers argued on Wednesday the gang were guilty of a “diabolical” crime, the victim’s mother had implored the judge to hand down the death sentence. Police in riot gear maintained a heavy presence outside the court on Friday with the road leading up to the complex barricaded off. India had an unofficial eight-year moratorium on capital punishment until last November, when the only surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks was executed. Weeks later, a Kashmiri was hanged over his role in an attack on parliament a decade ago. During Wednesday’s hearing, defence lawyers argued Judge Khanna should resist “political pressure” and instead jail the gang for life, citing the youth of their clients, who are all in their teens or 20s. The gang’s relatives had also been pleading for their lives to be spared ahead of the announcement. Handing down his verdict at the end of a seven-month trial Tuesday, Khanna found the men guilty of the “cold-blooded” murder of a “helpless victim” whose fight for life won her the nickname of Braveheart. Feelings have been running high in a country disgusted by daily reports of gang rapes and sex assaults on children. A total of 1,098 cases of rape have been reported to police in Delhi alone so far this year, according to figures in The Times of India on Friday. That represents a massive increase on the 450 recorded in the same period last year, although campaigners say the rise reflects a greater willingness by victims to come forward after the December bus attack. Since the convictions, newspapers have printed graphic details of the onslaught against the student, including of the internal injuries she suffered while being violated with a rusty iron bar before being thrown naked off the bus. Her injuries were so severe that she died nearly a fortnight later in a Singapore hospital. Before her death she had briefly regained consciousness, telling family and friends of her desire to see her attackers burn to death. Lawyers for the men have already said they will appeal the convictions in the Delhi High Court, which will spell years of argument and delays in India’s notoriously slow legal system. In appeal, the defence is likely to advocate lesser sentences for some of the gang, and argue it was a “spur of the moment” crime and not premeditated. There was widespread anger after a juvenile who was convicted last month for his role in the attack was sentenced to just three years in a correctional facility — the maximum allowed by law. The gang all lived in and around Ram Dass Camp, an unauthorised slum in southern Delhi where former neighbours had called for their execution. “They deserve the harshest punishment… Reform is out of the question,” said Maur Singh, a one-time neighbour who promised to hand out sweets in celebration if the judge sent them to the gallows. Rattled by the mass protests, the government rushed through new anti-rape laws and ordered the trial be held in a special fast-track court.           Taylor Scott International

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