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January 22, 2013

India gang-rape trial to open in fast-track court

NEW DELHI (AP) — The trial of five men accused of the rape and murder of a student aboard a bus in New Delhi will begin Thursday and should have none of the long delays commonly associated with India’s justice system, a defense lawyer said after a brief hearing.

Judge Yogesh Khanna denied a defense motion to make the proceedings public, ruling that the courtroom must remain closed because of the sensitive nature of the crime, said V.K. Anand, the lawyer for one of the defendants, Ram Singh.

The extreme brutality of the attack has sparked weeks of protests and focused global attention on India’s rarely discussed crisis of violence against women. Monday’s hearing was the first since the case was moved to a new fast-track court set up specifically to handle such crimes.

The five defendants’ faces were covered by woolen scarves as they arrived in the court, surrounded by a phalanx of police. A sixth suspect in the attack claims to be a juvenile and his case is being handled separately.

The judge told the lawyers to prepare for opening statements to begin Thursday and agreed to a defense motion to hold the trial every day throughout the week, instead of allowing the gaps of weeks and months between hearings common in other courts, Anand said.

Defense lawyers are awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court on their motion to move the trial outside New Delhi because of the strong emotions in the city.

Police say the victim and a male friend were heading home from an evening movie Dec. 16 when they boarded a bus, where they were attacked by the six assailants. The attackers beat the man and raped the woman, inflicting massive internal injuries with a metal bar, police said.

The victims were eventually dumped on the roadside, and the woman died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

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