Six men convicted in case of child rape and murder in India
Girl (8) in Indian-controlled Kashmir was raped, kept sedated and then bludgeoned to death
Media gather around a Punjab Police vehicle carrying the seven accused for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Kathua. Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images
A court has sentenced three Hindu men, including a police officer, to life imprisonment for kidnapping, raping and murdering an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Indian-controlled Kashmir, in a case that has exacerbated tensions in the disputed region.
Judge Tejwinder Singh sentenced three other policemen to five years in prison for destroying evidence, prosecutor Santokh Singh told reporters. The judge acquitted another defendant due to insufficient evidence.
An eighth suspect, a minor, will be tried separately by a juvenile court, the prosecutor said.
The girl, who was a member of a nomadic tribe, was grazing her family’s ponies in the forests of the Himalayan foothills when she was kidnapped in January 2018. Her mutilated body was found in the woods a week later.
The case sparked protests across Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region where rebels have been fighting for years for independence or unification with Pakistan and there is great distrust of the government.
Prosecutors plan to appeal to a higher court and seek the death penalty for the three defendants who received life sentences.
Thousands of members of a radical Hindu group had demanded the release of the defendants, insisting they were innocent.
The prosecution said the girl was raped in a small village temple in Kathua district after having been kept sedated for four days, and was then bludgeoned to death.
The girl’s father, Mohammed Akhtar, said by phone that the men should be “punished speedily, not just convicted”.
“Our family has gone through hell,” he said. “Our hearts are bleeding. These beasts should be hanged.”
That attack galvanised a country where widespread violence against women had long been quietly accepted.
While the government has passed a series of laws increasing punishment for rape, it’s rare for more than a few weeks to pass without another brutal sexual assault being reported. – AP