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January 10, 2013

India Rape Lawyer Alleges Evidence Tampering, Coercion

by VOA News

The lawyer for three suspects arrested for a brutal gang rape trial in India says his clients will plead not guilty and he alleges that police used force to gain confessions from them.

M.L. Sharma spoke to reporters Thursday on the way to a closed-door hearing in New Delhi. He says police manipulated the evidence to make his clients appear guilty.

"If evidence is the truth then there is no problem, but I believe, by way of the manipulated evidence, by way of the torture, you cannot, we will not allow any person to fix any innocent person for any kind of the punishment," said Sharma. "You did the torture, you have already punished these people worse than whatever punishment deserved by the accused person."  

The court proceedings of five of the six suspects are set to go to trial in a fast-track court, in response to public outrage over the brutality of the attack.

The sixth suspect is under 18 and will be tried separately in a juvenile court.

The suspects are accused of attacking a 23-year-old woman and her male friend after luring them onto a bus in New Delhi on December 16.  They were both beaten with a rod.  The woman was gang-raped and both victims were thrown from the bus.

The unidentified woman died of her injuries on December 29 in a Singapore hospital, where she had been taken for treatment.  

Indian authorities have charged the men with murder, rape, kidnapping and other charges. Officials say they will push for the death penalty, if the men are convicted.

Two of the accused, in an effort to receive lighter sentences, have told the court that they want to become witnesses for the prosecution.  

The woman's rape and death have sparked outrage across the country.  Protesters have called for tougher rape laws, major police reforms and a transformation in the ways India treats women.

Issues such as rape, dowry-related deaths and female infanticide rarely enter mainstream political discourse in India.