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Four men sentenced to death over gang rape and murder of Indian student

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.

Protesters shout slogans demanding the death penalty for the four men earlier this week
Protesters shout slogans demanding the death penalty for the four men earlier this week
Image: Altaf Qadri/AP/Press Association Images

A JUDGE HAS sentenced four men to death for the fatal gang rape of an Indian student on a bus last December, triggering applause inside the packed courtroom.

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.

Increase in rape reporting

Police in riot gear maintained a heavy presence outside the court today 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.

© AFP 2013

More: Four men convicted in India gang rape case

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