Indian lawyers refuse to defend gang-rape accused

Indian protesters hold placards during a rally in New Delhi on December 31, 2012 over the gang-rape of a young woman/AFP

Indian protesters hold placards during a rally in New Delhi on December 31, 2012 over the gang-rape of a young woman/AFP

NEW DELHI, Jan 2 – Lawyers at an Indian court hearing the case of a fatal gang-rape which has shocked the nation said Wednesday they would refuse to defend the men accused of taking part in the assault and murder.

Hearings are expected to begin on Thursday at the Saket district court in south New Delhi, where police will formally present a 1,000-page charge sheet against the six-person gang.

“We have decided that no lawyer will stand up to defend the rape accused as it would be immoral to defend the case,” Sanjay Kumar, a lawyer and a member of the Saket District Bar Council, told AFP.

Kumar said the 2,500 advocates registered at the court have decided to “stay away” to ensure “speedy justice”, meaning the government would have to appoint lawyers for the defendants.

Another lawyer at the court confirmed the boycott to AFP.

Five men are expected to face charges including rape, murder and kidnapping in the Saket court, with the prosecutor likely to seek the death sentence.

A sixth suspect is believed to be 17 years old, meaning he would be tried in a juveniles’ court, but police are conducting bone tests to determine his age.

The brutality and horrific nature of the attack on a 23-year-old has led to protests in the capital and elsewhere over the widespread abuse of women and sex crime in India.

The rape victim died at the weekend after 13-day struggle to survive injuries so grievous that part of her intestines had to be removed.

She was repeatedly raped and violated with an iron bar on a bus on December 16 before being thrown from the moving vehicle at the end of a 40-minute ordeal.

In 2008, Indian lawyers also refused to defend a gunman who took part in attacks on Mumbai which killed 166 people, leaving him with a government-appointed lawyer. He was executed in November last year.

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