NEW DELHI (AFP) - A defence lawyer accused Indian police on Thursday of beating confessions out of five men charged with murdering and gang-raping a student in New Delhi, as they were due to appear in court again.
Speaking before a hearing at which a magistrate is expected to transfer the case to a fast-track court, Mr M.L. Sharma told AFP that his clients had been beaten while in custody and were innocent of the charges.
A spokesman for Delhi police refused to comment on the allegations.
Mr Sharma is defending three of the five adult defendants. The three are expected to plead not guilty to a string of charges over the brutal attack on a moving bus on December 16 which sparked mass protests across India.
The other two defendants have yet to get themselves a lawyer while a sixth accused, who is 17, will be tried in a juvenile court.
"All the accused have been badly beaten by the police and they have used the third degree to extract the statement that suits the evidence they have collected," Mr Sharma said outside Saket District Court in southern Delhi.
"My clients have been forced to confess to crimes that they did not commit."
The five were expected to appear in court from about 2:30pm local time after their first appearance on Monday was marred by chaotic scenes which led the presiding magistrate to order the court cleared.
A court officer said on Monday that the case would be transferred to a fast-track trial court during Thursday's hearing, which will take place behind closed doors with media coverage restricted by a gagging order.
If the men are convicted, they could face the death penalty.
Police say the group lured the 23-year-old woman and a male companion onto the bus in New Delhi after they had spent the evening at the cinema and were trying to go home.
They then took it in turns to rape the woman and violate her with an iron bar as well as assault her partner before throwing them off the bus.