India Gang Rape: Two Men To Plead Not Guilty

Two of the men accused of gang-raping and killing a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus in Delhi will plead not guilty to all charges, their lawyer has said.

Mukesh Singh and Akshay Thakur are among five suspects charged with abduction, rape and murder over the December 16 attack on the medical student.

A sixth accused, who is 17, will be tried in a separate court for juveniles.

M L Sharma, who says he represents Thakur and Singh, the brother of the bus driver involved in the attack, said: “They will plead not guilty to all charges.

“Nothing has been proven yet.”

Officials at Tihar jail, the maximum security prison where the accused are being held, said Mr Sharma had met the two defendants earlier on Tuesday.

Police earlier told reporters they have identified bloodstains linking the men to the attack, but Mr Sharma said he would challenge police over their handling of evidence.

Mr Sharma refused to give further details.

On Monday, the five accused men faced court for the first time since the attack.

But the hearing had to be closed after noisy protests from lawyers objecting to the suspects being given defence counsels, and a crush of journalists straining to hear proceedings in the tiny room.

The next hearing, which will be held behind closed doors, has been scheduled for January 10 when a magistrate is expected to transfer the case for trial in a special fast-track court.

The case has sparked massive protests across India, where statistics show a woman is raped every 20 minutes, and protesters are calling for all rape suspects to be hanged.

Further protests erupted after a popular Indian spiritual guru said the 23-year-old victim should share blame with her attackers for the December 16 attack.

Asharam, known to his followers as “Bapu”, or father, told his devotees the victim was also at fault because she should have begged for mercy.

“This tragedy would not have happened if she had chanted God’s name and fallen at the feet of the attackers. The error was not committed by just one side,” he said in video footage which has been widely circulated on the internet.

The 71-year-old’s remarks drew a chorus of condemnation, including from Ravi Shankar Prasad, spokesman for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

Mr Prasad said: “For him to make the statement in relation to a crime which has shocked the conscience of the country is not only unfortunate but deeply regrettable.”