NEW DELHI — An Indian court convicted four men Tuesday in the deadly gang rape of a young woman on a moving New Delhi bus, a brutal crime that galvanized public anger over the widespread — yet widely tolerated — sexual violence faced by Indian women.
As word of the verdict filtered out, protesters outside the courthouse chanted “Hang them! Hang them!”
The men were convicted on all 11 counts against them, including rape and murder, and now face the possibility of hanging. The sentences are expected to be handed down today.
Judge Yogesh Khanna said in his verdict that the men, who tricked the 23-year-old rape victim and her male friend into boarding the bus they were driving, had committed “murder of a helpless person.”
The parents of the woman, who cannot be identified under Indian law, had tears in their eyes as the verdicts were read. The mother, wearing a pink sari, sat just a few feet from the convicted men in a tiny courtroom jammed with lawyers, police and reporters. The hearing lasted only a few minutes, and the four men were quickly led from the courtroom by policemen after the verdicts were read.
Speaking before the convictions, the father of the victim called for the four to be executed.
“For what happened with her, these brutes must be hanged,” he told reporters as he left home for the courthouse. “Nothing but the death penalty is acceptable to us.”
Protesters called the Dec. 16 attack a wake-up call for India, where women have long talked quietly of enduring everything from sexual comments to public groping to rape, but where they would often face blame themselves if they complained publicly.
“Every girl at any age experiences this — harassment or rape. We don’t feel safe,” said law school graduate Rabia Pathania. “That’s why we’re here. We want this case to be an example for every other case that has been filed and will be filed.”
Lawyers for the men have insisted they were tortured — a common occurrence in India’s chaotic criminal justice system — and that confessions, which were later retracted, were coerced.
A.P. Singh, who at times has worked as a lawyer for all the men, said they were innocent.
“These accused have been framed simply to please the public,” he told reporters. “This is not a fair trial.”
The men were identified by the young woman’s friend, and police say they could be seen on security cameras near the bus.
The men, most of them from a crowded New Delhi neighborhood of hand-made brick shanties filled by migrants from poor rural villages, were joy-riding around the city in an off-duty bus when police say they came across the woman and her friend waiting at a bus top. The pair — by most accounts they were not romantically involved — were heading home after an evening showing of “Life of Pi” at a high-end mall just a short walk from the courthouse where Tuesday’s verdict was read.
It wasn’t late. It wasn’t a bad neighborhood. The bus, by all appearances, was just a way for the two to get home.
Instead, the attackers beat the friend into submission, held down the woman and repeatedly raped her. They penetrated her with a metal rod, causing severe internal injuries that led to her death two weeks later.