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3 Delhi gang rape suspects plead not guilty

Three of the five men accused of gang raping a 23-year-old woman in Delhi last month pleaded not guilty.

Three of the five men accused of gang raping a 23-year-old woman in Delhi last month will plead not guilty, according to their lawyer.

The five men were accused of the abduction, rape and murder of the victim who died from wounds sustained during the brutal attack.

Their lawyer, Manohar Lal Sharma, told the BBC that Mukesh Singh, Akshay Thakur and Ram Singh will plead not guilty and should get a fair trial.

According to British newspaper The Independent, the other two suspects, Pawan Gupta and Vinay Sharma, declined legal counsel and said they would act as witnesses or “approvers,” possibly in an attempt to escape the death penalty.

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“The men, wearing gray hats, were bustled into the second-floor courtroom in Delhi after a judge took the controversial decision that the hearing had to be held in private after earlier, chaotic scenes were deemed to have disrupted proceedings,” The Independent wrote. “Barely 30 minutes later, the accused were led out of the court, loaded aboard a blue police bus and taken back to the city’s Tihar jail, having been given a list of over 10 charges they face.”

More on GlobalPost: India: Five men accused of gang rape of Indian student appear in Delhi court

GlobalPost’s senior correspondent Jason Overdorf provided some context from Delhi: “The suspects have little reason to plead guilty, as the Indian police have had difficulty proving cases beyond a shadow of a doubt when they relied on forensic evidence in the past, and trials have lingered on for years even in so-called ‘fast track’ courts.”

“That said, the media [and international] attention on this case suggests that the trial will be conducted speedily in this case, and it’s unlikely that the judge will discount the testimony of the victim’s male friend, who will testify,” said Overdorf.

According to Times of India, the men have been accused of murder, gang rape, attempt to murder, kidnapping, unnatural offenses, dacoity (banditry), hurting in committing robbery, destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy and common intention.

A sixth suspect is being tried separately, because he might be under 17.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday.

More on GlobalPost: Father of Delhi gang rape victim: ‘Name my daughter’

Follow Jason Overdorf @joverdorf, who contributed reporting from New Delhi, India.