The trial of five men accused of the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman has begun at a fast-track court in New Delhi. The victim's companion gave closed-door testimony as a key witness of the December attack.
The defendants, who pleaded not guilty in a pre-trial hearing on Saturday, are charged with murder, gang rape, abduction, destroying evidence and criminal conspiracy. They face the death penalty if convicted of murder. All have pleaded not guilty to the charges of rape and murder.
A sixth suspect will be tried in a juvenile court and faces a maximum sentence of three years.
The companion of the victim, a 28-year-old software engineer, who has not been named for legal reasons, testified on Tuesday but details were not made public. He arrived at Tuesday's hearing in a wheelchair and bearing scars.
The man had spent the evening with the victim at the cinema and then boarded an off-duty bus where the pair was attacked.
While he did not talk to reporters upon arriving, the man's father confirmed that he would give evidence in the trial.
“My son will go to any lengths to ensure that the guilty are punished,” the father told the AFP news agency.
Rape prompted mass protests
On December 16, the young woman, a student who has not been named, was beaten with an iron rod and repeatedly raped in a moving bus in New Delhi. She died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital from her injuries.
Dezember's attack sparked mass protests across India, with people demanding improved safety for women.
As a result the case was sent to a fast-track court and tougher laws for rape and sexual crimes have been passed. The new laws, which were approved over the weekend, include the death penalty for rapists in cases where the victim dies from the assault.
The judge in the case has banned all reporting of proceedings inside the courtroom and ordered lawyers not to speak to journalists.
hc, ipj/dr (AFP, dpa)