Verdict for India gang rape trial delivered under pressure: defence lawyer

Defence lawyer A.P. Singh speaks to journalists as he comes out after an Indian court convicted four men on September 10, 2013 in the fatal gang rape of a young woman on a moving New Delhi bus last year. Mr Singh, who at times has worked as a lawyer
Defence lawyer A.P. Singh speaks to journalists as he comes out after an Indian court convicted four men on September 10, 2013 in the fatal gang rape of a young woman on a moving New Delhi bus last year. Mr Singh, who at times has worked as a lawyer for all the accused, said they were innocent and the verdict has been delivered under political pressure. -- PHOTO: AP 

THE FOUR men accused of the gang rape of a young woman were found guilty on Tuesday by a fast-track court in a case that triggered a national outcry over the safety of women in the country.

Mukesh Singh, 26, Pawan Gupta, 19, Vinay Sharma, 20, and Akshay Thakur, 28, were convicted of a dozen charges that included rape, murder, kidnapping and robbery.

"I convict all the accused. They have been found guilty of gang rape, unnatural offences, destruction of evidence...and for committing the murder of the helpless victim," said Judge Yogesh Khanna.

The four accused stood in one corner of the small courtroom, surrounded by policemen and just a short distance away from the victim's parents, who have been demanding nothing less than the death penalty.

The parents had tears in their eyes as the judge gave the verdicts in the most-watched trial in India.

The fast-track court will hear arguments from the prosecution and the defence on Wednesday and could hand down the sentences, the maximum of which is the death penalty.

The accused were found guilty of repeatedly raping the 23-year-old physiotherapy student and beating her male companion with a metal bar in a moving bus in Delhi on Dec 16 last year. The woman died from massive injuries two weeks later at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

The brutality of the crime shook the country, with middle-class Indians taking to the streets to protest the lack of safety for women in India. According to the police, a rape is reported every 20 minutes in the country.

Rape laws have since been changed to include the death penalty.

The judge in his judgment said he took into account the dying declaration of the victim, forensic evidence from fingerprints to DNA evidence and the statements given by the accused to the police after their arrests. All four had pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Defence lawyer A.P. Singh maintained that the verdict has been delivered under pressure.

"There was political pressure...I will appeal the case in the high court," he said.

The verdict of the four men comes 10 days after the fifth accused, a juvenile who was 17 at the time of the offence, was sentenced to three years in a reform home, the maximum sentence for a minor under Indian laws.

A sixth accused, Ram Singh, described as the ring leader, hanged himself in his prison cell.

A small group of protesters gathered outside the courtroom, demanding capital punishment for the four accused.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg