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India death sentences upheld over 2012 rape

India’s Supreme Court building is pictured in New Delhi on July 24. India’s Supreme Court on July 24 upheld death sentences handed down to three men over the gang-rape and murder of a woman in New Delhi in 2012, saying there were no grounds for a review. (AFP)

NEW DELHI, July 9, (Agencies): India’s top court on Monday upheld death sentences for three men convicted over the notorious 2012 gang-rape and murder of a woman that sparked national protests and soul-searching.

Jyoti Singh, a physiotherapy student, was raped and left for dead by a gang of five men and a teenager on a bus in the Indian capital New Delhi in December 2012. The 23-year-old woman, on course to be the first professional in the family, was coming home from the cinema with a male friend.

The six-strong gang beat the man unconscious before raping and torturing Singh with an iron bar as the private bus drove loops through the Indian capital. She was dumped on the streets after 45 minutes with horrific internal injuries, and died 13 days later in a Singapore hospital.

The brutality of the attack, and her determination to survive long enough to identify her attackers to police, triggered angry demonstrations by tens of thousands of people in Delhi and nationwide. The case also put the treatment of women in the world’s largest democracy in the global spotlight and led to heavier sentences for sex crimes.

Four of the men were convicted in September 2013 for murder, gang-rape, theft, conspiracy and “unnatural acts” after a seven-month trial in a fasttrack court. All four maintain their innocence. Only three of them were involved in the appeal rejected on Monday by the Supreme Court. A fifth man, the suspected ringleader, was found dead in jail in a suspected suicide, while a 17-yearold was sentenced to three years in a detention centre and has since been released. The victim’s parents on Monday welcomed the ruling, with her mother Asha Singh saying it was “very happy news”. “It’s a great message for the entire society. This verdict is meant for society, women and all of us,” father Badrinath Singh told reporters.

But the defendants’ lawyer said he would file a curative petition, the last legal challenge. If that fails they could seek a pardon from the president. “Justice should be for everyone. Injustice has been meted out to them. The court has taken a decision against these kids (convicts) under political and media pressure,” A.P. Singh told reporters.

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