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India Ink: Five Accused in Delhi Gang Rape Case Plead ‘Not Guilty’

February 2nd, 2013 World

By NEHA THIRANI BAGRI

The five men accused in a brutal  gang rape that led to nationwide protests entered not guilty pleas Saturday to the 13 charges filed against them.

The charges  —  including gang rape, murder, kidnapping and conspiracy  —  stem from the Dec. 16 rape and murder of a physiotherapy student. Reports of the attack led to days of protests in India over the violent treatment of women.

A trial for the five suspects  —  Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur  — is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Saket District Court Complex in New Delhi.

V.K. Anand, defense counsel for the brothers Ram Singh and Mukesh Singh said in a telephone interview that “All the five accused have pleaded not guilty.”

“The charges being framed is one thing,” Mr. Anand said,  “but proving the charges is another.”

Pretrial arguments for the five suspects were completed on Wednesday. On Monday, the sixth accused was declared officially a juvenile by the Indian Juvenile Justice Board, meaning the maximum sentence he could receive is three years in a detention facility. If they are convicted, the five on trial could face the death penalty. The Supreme Court dismissed a plea to transfer the New Delhi gang rape trial outside the city on Tuesday. The trial, which is being carefully watched by the country, has brought about renewed debate on the challenges facing the Indian legal system.

According to the local news channel IBN Live, 86 witnesses will be examined during the course of the trial.

Pamposh Raina contributed to this post.