Judge prepares to deliver Dehli gang-rape verdict
A Delhi police van believed to be carrying the accused in a gang rape case enters a court complex on September 10, 2013. The four men accused of the fatal attack face possible death sentences.
The parents of the popular physiotherapy student have been at the forefront of calls for the men to be hanged over the December 16 attack in New Delhi, which led to a wave of soul-searching and a new anti-rape law.
Their 23-year-old daughter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, died of her injuries on December 29 in a Singapore hospital.
The four men, Mukesh Singh, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma, have all pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include murder, gang rape and theft.
A juvenile has already been sentenced to three years in a correctional facility, while a fifth adult defendant, bus driver Ram Singh, was found hanging in his prison cell in March while awaiting trial.
"We will not accept anything below the death penalty," the victim's father told AFP from his home in southwestern Delhi in an interview last week.
"If all four are sentenced to death, I can't imagine anything being better than that... We will get closure."
The seven-month trial has been held in a special fast-track court in south Delhi, with more than 100 witnesses called to give evidence, including 85 for the prosecution.
Despite an initial gagging order on the trial, the case has drawn huge interest and about 20 TV trucks were outside the court on Tuesday morning while dozens of journalists queued to get inside.
Presiding judge Yogesh Khanna said last week that he would deliver his verdict on September 10 after dismissing requests from defence lawyers for more time.
Lawyers said they expected the judge to hand down the verdict at around 12.30 pm (0700 GMT).
During the trial, the prosecution produced DNA evidence, the victim's dying testimony and statements from a male companion who was beaten up during the attack.
The victim and her companion had spent the evening watching a movie at a mall in south Delhi when they were picked up by one of the many private buses plying the streets.
But rather than take them home, the group are alleged to have subjected the pair to a horrifying 45-minute ordeal that ended with both of them thrown out of the bus, virtually unconscious and naked.
In an interview ahead of the verdict, the 28-year-old companion told AFP that the assault was beyond a nightmare.
"I never imagined that one human being could treat another so badly," he said in an interview.
The student's family were bitterly disappointed with the three-year sentence handed down last month on the youngest defendant, the maximum allowed by law as he was only 17 at the time of the attack.
India has the death sentence for the "rarest of rare crimes", but does not often carry out executions.
The sentencing may not come until a few days after the verdict. Any subsequent appeal by the defendants is likely to take years in India's notoriously slow legal system.
The mother of Vinay Sharma, who is one of the defendants, said that she hoped the court would be merciful but feared for son's life even if he is acquitted.
"People are angry. Now that Vinay's picture is public, they will lynch him if they get a chance," the mother, Champa Devi, told The Hindu newspaper.
A.P. Singh, lawyer for Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur, told AFP that his clients were calm ahead of the verdict.
"The last time I met them (at the last hearing on September 3), both of them said to me: 'Don't worry sir ... Whatever happens now, we'll see. No need to worry.'"
Vivek Sharma, lawyer for Pawan Gupta, said he worried that public pressure could have a bearing on the outcome.
"Having said that, the trial has been fair and balanced and the defence got every opportunity to present its case."
The attack sparked weeks of sometimes violent street protests across India with seething public anger about sex crimes against women.
It also led to tougher laws for sex offenders, including the death penalty for rapists whose victims die or are left in a vegetative state.
But savage attacks against women are still reported daily in India's newspapers and the gang rape of a photographer last month near an upmarket area of Mumbai rekindled public disgust.
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