- The men were formally indicted in a special court on 13 charges today
- Lawyer said they signed statements saying they were innocent
- The girl was repeatedly raped and brutalised on a bus in December
- Case caused outrage in India and led to mass protests
Five men accused of brutally raping and killing a woman on a New Delhi bus have today pleaded not guilty.
The group were formally indicted in a special court on 13 charges, including rape and murder
One of the lawyers representing the defendants said they signed statements in the special fast-track court today saying they were innocent.
The lawyer cannot be identified under a gag order imposed by the court. The court will begin hearing the evidence of witnesses on Tuesday.
A sixth suspect, who is 17 years old, will be tried in a juvenile court and could face a maximum sentence of three years in a reform facility if convicted. A conviction as an adult could have led to his execution.
Police say the victim and a male friend were attacked after boarding a bus on December 16 as they tried to return home after watching a movie.
The six men, the only occupants of the private bus, beat the man with a metal bar, raped the woman and used the bar to inflict massive injuries to her during an hour-long ordeal, police say.
The brutal attack set off nationwide protests, sparking a debate about the treatment of women in India and highlighting the inability of law enforcement agencies to protect them.
Her mother, who told her cherished daughter that if she studied hard she could escape a life of poverty, said her ‘dream has ended’ with her child’s death.
Because of a legal gag order, the victim and her family cannot be identified until the end of the trial of the alleged rapists.
‘I would have been with her all my life': Friend of rape victim who witnessed brutal bus assault describes their close and complex relationship
She described him as a ‘perfect man’ while he described her ‘as the closest person to my heart’.
But following the brutal and senseless rape and killing of the 23-year-old medical student, their close friendship has been ripped apart.
The 28-year-old IT specialist had been to the cinema with his petite friend to watch Life of Pi on the night of the attack.
But after getting on a bus to make their way home, they were both subjected to a violent attack which left the girl dead.
During the attack, he was struck with the metal rod repeatedly on the back of his head and on his legs. But it was nothing compared to the horrors which his friend was subjected too.
Now, less than two months since the attack, the man, who cannot be identified, is constantly haunted by thoughts of that tragic night.
‘I find myself surrounded by the pictures in my mind of the incident of that night in the bus’, he told The Independent.
The couple first met in December 2010 through a mutual friend. From there the friendship blossomed. They regularly spoke on the phone and also started taking trips with each other to holy sites.
Despite their closeness, the friends were bound by caste and tradition which worked against them forming a serious relationship. But in every other way they were a couple.
They discussed any problems they had with their families or finances and often took vacations together.
‘She was the closest person to my heart’ he says.
The heartbroken young man is soon expected to relive the horrifying ordeal in front of a judge at the trial of the accused men.
It is sure to be a painful experience.
‘I would have been with her all my life. Even if that meant taking the extreme step of going against the wishes of my family.’