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India gang-rape: Witness recounts torture 'joyride'

The male companion of the victim, who was also assaulted, arrived at the fast-track court in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast. Suryatapa Bhattacharya reports from New Delhi

NEW DELHI // The key prosecution witness in the Delhi gang-rape trial appeared in court yesterday to give testimony and identify the bus in which the deadly assault took place.

The male companion of the victim, who was also assaulted, arrived at the fast-track court in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast.

The bus was parked on the court premises alongside other buses used to bring defendants for court hearings.

The white private chartered bus with tinted windows, normally used to ferry children to school, was allegedly used by the six accused to lure the victims on board by masquerading as a commuter bus.

The accused were on a "joyride", the Delhi police had said earlier.

The court proceedings remain off limits to the media, but details of the assault on the night of December 16 have already been leaked by police and defence attorneys and recounted in television interviews by the male victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.

The 28-year-old, who works at one of India's largest IT and consulting companies, told a TV station how he and the 23-year-old woman were returning home after watching a film at a mall located a few hundred metres from where the trial is now taking place. He said they were lured onto the bus by one of the accused. The bus was then driven around Delhi for more than an hour while the two of them were beaten and the woman was gang-raped and tortured with a rusted iron rod.

Both of them were then stripped of their clothes and belongings and thrown off the bus, after which the driver attempted to run them over, he said.

The man's father, who was with his son at the courthouse, confirmed that his son gave evidence yesterday.

"My son will go to any lengths to ensure that the guilty are punished," the man's father told AFP. "He will cooperate and is prepared to answer any questions posed by the defence."

The five men standing trial have all denied the charges of rape, murder, robbery and kidnapping. They face punishment ranging from life in prison to the death penalty if convicted. The sixth accused is being tried separately as a juvenile.

The rape victim died from her injuries on December 23 amid a national outcry over the brutality of the assault which prompted the government to introduce harsher penalties for sexual assaults.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting from AFP