India: Delhi gang rape defendant changes his story

The World

One of the defendants in the India gang rape case has thrown the entire defense case into doubt by changing his testimony to say that he was present during the attack.

Until now, lawyers for the four men and one juvenile who stand accused of gang-raping a young woman on a private bus in Delhi last December had maintained that none of them was present, the Wall Street Journal reported

A sixth man accused over the rape — the bus driver and alleged ringleader — was found dead in jail in March. If found guilty, the remaining defendants are likely to face the death sentence.

Citing court documents, the WSJ said that 22-year-old day laborer Mukesh Singh had changed his story in recent days to say that he was the bus driver that night.

He also identified his co-defendants, as well as the victim, a physiotherapy student, as his passengers that night.

However, he said, he was in a separate compartment from the others and could not see what was going on in the back of the bus:

"I had not heard any cries since the driver's cabin was closed at that time."

However, the male friend who accompanied the woman killed has provided testimony implicating each of the five surviving defendants.

The 23-year-old woman, who according to the police was assaulted with a metal rod and thrown naked from the bus, died of her injuries. The attack, The Guardian wrote, "led to an unprecedented national discussion about sexual violence and calls for widespread changes in cultural attitudes, as well as policing and legal reform."

The rape victim's family has even called for the youngest of the alleged attackers, who was 17 years old at the time and under Indian law can only be given a three-year sentence, to be hanged regardless.

Last Thursday, the juvenile court trying the teenager delayed announcing its verdict in the case until August 5 because of a legal challenge.

The challenge came from politician Subramanian Swamy, the head of the Janata Party, who filed a petition arguing that suspects aged over 16 who are accused of serious offences should be tried in adult courts.

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