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India charges men accused in gang rape case

Prosecutors in New Delhi have formally charged five men accused of raping a 23-year-old woman who later died from severe head trauma and organ damage. The case sparked outrage across India.

The charges filed against the men on Thursday to the district court included murder and presented a reportedly 1,000-page dossier of evidence. If the court finds the assailants guilty in the fast-tracked case, they could face the death penalty. The country's chief justice called for resolve to let justice prevail in a highly emotional situation.

"Let us not get carried away. A swift trial should not be at the cost of a fair trial," Chief Justice Altamas Kabir told the local media on Thursday.

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Suspects could face the death penalty

Public anger has swelled since the December 16 attack. The victim, who was reported to be a medical student, boarded a bus with a male friend after visiting the cinema. The six men aboard the bus, including the driver, allegedly conspired to attack the woman. She was gang-raped, beaten and ultimately thrown from the vehicle. The bus driver has been accused of trying to run over both victims.

The sixth male suspect was not charged on Thursday, as police have not been able to determine if he was a minor.

Indian lawyers have refused to represent the accused, forcing the court to appoint defense attorneys before it reconvenes on Saturday.

The case set off a wave of protests in the days since the attack, which continued into Thursday. Citizens have been calling on politicians to introduce legislation that would provide greater protection for women.

According to police figures, a rape is reported to authorities every 18 hours in New Delhi.

kms/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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