Women pose with knives, distributed by India's radical
Hindu nationalist party Shiv Sena, in Mumbai. The Shiv
Sena, an ally of the main opposition BJP, has handed out
kitchen knives and chilli powder to women. REUTERS/Stringer
Five men have pleaded not guilty to charges they raped
and murdered an Indian trainee physiotherapist, in a case that
led to a shake-up of laws against sexual crimes after protests
about a rising number of attacks on women.
Police say the gang lured the 23-year-old woman onto a bus in
New Delhi, where they repeatedly raped and assaulted her with
a metal bar before throwing her bleeding onto a highway. She
died of internal injuries two weeks after the December 16
A Reuters witness saw the men file into the court room with
their faces covered, where lawyers in the case said they were
read thirteen charges including murder, which carries a
maximum penalty of death. They left after 15 minutes.
"After the judge read out the charges, the five pleaded not
guilty and walked out" said A.P. Singh, a lawyer defending
two of the accused, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur.
Singh said the prosecution will call three witnesses to the
next hearing on Tuesday, which is the formal start of the
trial. The prosecution says it has strong evidence against
the five men including blood stained clothing, DNA matches,
mobile phone records, confessions and eye-witness statements.
Singh says Sharma was never on the bus and Thakur was hiding
beneath a seat and never took part in the crime.
The other men - brothers Ram and Mukesh Singh and Pawan Kumar
- are represented by two other lawyers. Mukesh Singh has
replaced a lawyer who claimed his client was tortured in
police custody, and no longer claims mistreatment.
A sixth person police say was part of the gang that attacked
the woman and her friend is a juvenile and will be tried
The brutality of the attack was shocking even to a nation
inured to a rising wave of sexual crimes against women.
Thousands of young protesters took to the streets in the
weeks that followed. In response to the public outcry, on
Friday the cabinet fast-tracked new, tougher penalties for
Under the new rules, due to be signed into law by the
president in the coming days, gang rape that leads to death
will be punishable by death while minimum penalties will be
raised to 20 years for gang rape and rape of a minor. The
laws must later be ratified by parliament.