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Four men hanged in India for notorious gang rape and murder

New Delhi, India — Seven years after the brutal gang rape of a paramedical student in Delhi, four men convicted of the crime have been executed. The victim later died in a hospital

Akshay Thakur, 31, Pawan Gupta, 25, Vinay Sharma, 26, and Mukesh Singh, 32, were hanged at Delhi's Tihar Jail early Friday morning. 

The rape and murder of the 23-year-old woman triggered massive street protests across India, bringing the global press spotlight on the Indian capital. 

On December 16, 2012, the woman - who later came to be known as Nirbhaya (which means brave in Hindi) -  boarded a private bus along with a male friend to head for home. Six men on the bus soon attacked the couple, beating her friend unconscious before taking turns raping her.  

The bus drove around the city for an hour while the men carried out the savage assault on her using an iron rod. They dumped the couple on a road, naked and bleeding.

An Indian woman along with the others participates in a protest condemning the gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a city bus late Sunday in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012.
An Indian woman along with others participates in a December 18, 2012 protest condemning the gang rape two days earlier of a 23-year-old student on a city bus late Sunday in Delhi, India. AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal

She died in a hospital in Singapore a few days later, where she was taken for better treatment as her condition deteriorated.

Six people were arrested for the attack. One of them, named Ram Singh, allegedly died by suicide in jail in March 2013. And another was 17 at the time of the attack and was treated a minor under the Indian law. He was released in 2015 after serving three years in a reform home. 

"We all have waited so long for this day. Today is a new dawn for daughters of India. The beasts have been hanged," Asha Devi, the victim's mother, told the press after the hangings. 

"Justice has prevailed," India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted after the hangings.

Legal battle for justice 

The four men were convicted in 2013 and subsequently sentenced to death by the trial court. 

They appealed the sentence in India's Supreme Court several times, but all their appeals were rejected

India's president, Ram Nath Kovind, also rejected their mercy petitions.

The hanging date was rescheduled three times as they men kept trying different courts with new appeals based on new grounds. Their legal battle to escape the gallows continued to the very end. 

Their petition was rejected in the middle of the night - a couple of hours before they were hanged. In it, their lawyer cited the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for a lack of proper documents for a hurriedly-filed appeal.

India has a dismal record of sexual violence against women and girls. Records show tough new laws haven't proven to be successful deterrents. According to government data released in January, 34,000 women were raped in India in 2018, which means a rape was reported every 15 minutes on average. 

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