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Indian police investigated over killings of rape suspects

Five men were arrested in connection with the fire attack.

Image: Bikas Das via PA

Updated Dec 7th 2019, 11:46 AM

A TOP INDIAN rights group launched an investigation today into a police shooting of four rape-murder suspects, after accusations they were gunned down to assuage public anger.

News of the investigation came as the country reeled after the death of a woman who had been set on fire on her way to a sexual assault hearing.

Police said that they shot the four suspects, who had been in custody for a week, early yesterday after they snatched officers’ guns during a re-enactment at the crime scene organised by detectives.

Their deaths prompted celebrations, with hundreds heading to the scene and showering officers with flower petals, as politicians, celebrities and sports stars congratulated police on social media.

This morning, police were still at the scene outside Hyderabad in southern India as motorists stopped their cars on the busy highway to look and take photos with their phones.

Others have expressed horror however, with one Supreme Court lawyer calling it “murder in cold blood” and Amnesty International saying the “alleged extrajudicial execution” should be investigated.

The operation was overseen by a police officer involved in two similar incidents including when three acid attack suspects were killed in a forest in 2008.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, an alleged rape victim in northern India who was set on fire on her way to a court hearing in the case has died in a hospital in New Delhi.

The woman was attacked on Thursday by a group of men in the state of Uttar Pradesh, including two of the five men she had accused of gang-rape last year who were on bail.

Five men were arrested in connection with the fire attack.

The 23-year-old woman suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted from Uttar Pradesh to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died late yesterday of cardiac arrest, according to Dr Shalab Kumar, head of the hospital’s burns unit.

Priyanka Gandhi, the general secretary of the opposition Congress party, blamed the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, for failing to provide the woman with security, even after a similar case in the state in which a woman who accused a BJP politician of rape was severely injured in a vehicle hit-and-run incident.

The burns victim’s death came on the same day that police in the southern state of Telangana fatally shot four men being held on suspicion of raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian after investigators took them to the crime scene.

Their deaths drew both praise and condemnation in a case that has sparked protests across the country.

The woman’s burned body was found last week by a passer-by near the city of Hyderabad, India’s tech hub, after she went missing the previous night.

Police took the four suspects, who had not been charged with any crime, to the scene to help them locate the victim’s phone and other items, officials said.

They said the men grabbed police firearms and began shooting, and were killed when officers returned fire.

The Telangana High Court ordered authorities to preserve the bodies of the suspects and submit a video of the post-mortem examinations ahead of a court hearing set for Monday.

Separately, the National Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous body within India’s Parliament, sent a fact-finding mission to the crime scene and mortuary where the suspects’ bodies were held on Saturday amid questions from opposition politicians about the circumstances of the suspects’ deaths.

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