An Indian judge has announced that sentences will be handed down Friday in the fatal gang rape of a young New Delhi woman, as the prosecutor called for the four convicted rapists to be executed and defence lawyers asked for leniency.
Judge Yogesh Khanna ended a sentencing hearing Wednesday by announcing that he would give his ruling Friday afternoon.
Khanna convicted the men Tuesday in the December gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a moving New Delhi bus, a brutal crime that unleashed a wave of public anger over the treatment of Indian women. The woman died two weeks after the attack of internal injuries.
A court convicted the four Tuesday. The men's lawyers have long said they are innocent, and any confessions had been coerced by police torture.
The four men face either life imprisonment or death by hanging. Calls for the men to be executed have grown increasingly loud in India.
The woman and a male friend of hers were coming home from a movie when the men tricked them into boarding a bus they were joy-riding. They quickly beat the friend into submission, held the woman down and took turns raping her. They also penetrated her with a metal rod, causing severe internal injuries that led to her death two weeks later.
The victim, who also cannot be identified under Indian law, had been supported by her parents as she tried to climb into India's growing middle class. At the time of the rape, she was awaiting her exam results after finishing a degree in physiotherapy.
The defendants, like the victim, come from poor and ill-educated families. One, Mukesh Singh, occasionally drove the bus where the crime occurred and cleaned it. Another, Vinay Sharma, was a 20-year-old assistant at a gym and the only one of the attackers to graduate from high school. Akshay Thakur, 28, occasionally worked as a driver's helper on the bus. Pawan Gupta, 19, was a fruit seller.
With them on the bus were two other men. Police said Ram Singh, 33, hanged himself in prison, though his family insists he was murdered. He was the brother of Mukesh Singh, who was convicted Tuesday. Another man — an 18-year-old who was a juvenile at the time of the attack and cannot be identified under Indian law — was convicted in August and will serve the maximum sentence, three years in a reform home.