Five accused in India rape case charged in court

Mon Jan 7, 2013 12:37pm EST
 
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By Annie Banerji and Suchitra Mohanty

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Five men accused of raping and murdering an Indian student were read the charges in a near-empty courtroom on Monday after the judge cleared out lawyers for bickering over whether the men deserved a defense.

The 23-year-old physiotherapy student died two weeks after being gang-raped and beaten on a moving bus in New Delhi, then thrown bleeding onto the street. Protests followed, along with a fierce public debate over police failure to stem rampant violence against women.

With popular anger simmering against the five men and a teenager accused in the case, most lawyers in the district where the trial will be held refuse to represent them.

Before the men arrived for a pre-trial hearing on Monday, heckling broke out in a chamber packed with jostling lawyers, journalists and members of the public after two of the lawyers, Manohar Lal Sharma and V. K. Anand, offered to defend the men.

"We are living in a modern society," declared Lal Sharma, defending his decision. "We all are educated. Every accused, including those in brutal offences like this, has the legal right ... to defend themselves."

One woman lawyer prodded V. K. Anand in the chest, saying: "I'll see how you can represent the accused."

Unable to restore order, presiding magistrate Namrita Aggarwal ordered everyone to leave except the prosecution, and set police to guard the entrance.

She said the trial would now be held behind closed doors because of the sensitivity of the case.   Continued...

 
A policeman keeps guard outside a court in New Delhi January 7, 2013. Five men accused of the gang rape and murder of an Indian student appeared in court on Monday to hear charges against them, after two of them offered evidence possibly in return for a lighter sentence in the case that has led to a global outcry. The five men, along with a teenager, are accused of raping the 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus in New Delhi. She died two weeks later on December 28 in a Singapore hospital. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi