Indian police officers stand outside the district court where five men accused in a gang rape were brought to appear in New Delhi, India.(Photo: Manish Swarup, AP)
NEW DELHI -- An Indian magistrate ruled Monday that the media
would not be allowed to attend pre-trial hearings or the trial of the
five men accused of raping and killing a young student in the Indian
capital, a police official said.
Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal
upheld the prosecutor's request that the media be barred from attending
the proceedings, according to police spokesman Rajan Bhagat. Hundreds of
journalists, lawyers and onlookers had jammed the courtroom where the
five were to appear.
The Monday hearing was expected to result in
the case being sent to a special "fast-track" court. Indian courts are
notoriously slow, with some cases dragging on for decades. The trial is
expected to begin in the coming days. Indian rape trials are normally
closed to the media.
have charged the men with murder, rape and other crimes that could
bring them the death penalty. The crime caused nationwide outrage,
leading to massive protests.
A sixth suspect, who is 17 years old,
was expected to be tried in a juvenile court, where the maximum
sentence would be three years in a reform facility.
Rajiv Mohan said last week that a DNA test confirmed that the blood of
the victim matched blood stains found on the clothes of all the accused.
Sunday, two of the defendants offered to become "approvers", or
informers against the others, according to reporters present at the
hearing. The two were presumably seeking lighter sentences.
companion of the student recounted in a television interview last week
how the pair was attacked for 2 1/2 hours on a New Delhi bus before
being thrown on the side of the road, where passersby ignored them and
police debated jurisdiction issues before helping them. The student died
weeks after the Dec. 16 attack at a hospital in Singapore.
attack has led to calls for tougher rape laws and reforms of a police
culture that often blames rape victims and refuses to file charges
against accused attackers. The nation's top law enforcement official
said the country needs to crack down on crimes against women.