India Delhi gang rape four 'deserve death penalty'

Demonstrators outside the Delhi court on September 10 2013
Image caption Demonstrators outside the court called for the four convicted men to be hanged

Four men found guilty of the fatal gang rape of a student in the Indian capital Delhi should face the death penalty, prosecutors say.

They told a sentencing hearing the brutality of the crime had shocked the "collective conscience". The judge, who also heard arguments from the defence, will announce the sentences on Friday.

The woman, 23, was attacked on a bus in December and died two weeks later.

The case led to days of violent protest across India and new laws against rape.

Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta, who denied the charges, were found guilty on Tuesday.

Lawyers for three of the men have said they will appeal against the convictions.

Addressing Judge Yogesh Khanna, public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan said the "sentence which is appropriate is nothing short of death".

"There can be nothing more diabolical... There is no element of sympathy in the way in which the hapless woman was tortured," Mr Krishnan was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Judge Khanna convicted the four men on Tuesday saying they were "guilty of gang rape, unnatural offences, destruction of evidence... and for committing the murder of the helpless victim".

But arguing against the death penalty on Wednesday, defence lawyers suggested that media coverage had a bearing on the trial.

"In a case where there is a call for the death penalty, we will argue for an easing of the punishment," VK Anand, one of the lawyers, earlier told the AFP news agency.

Lawyers for the four convicted men say that their clients have been tortured and that some of their confessions - later retracted - were coerced.

Correspondents say that torture is a common occurrence in India's chaotic criminal justice system.

'Larger issue'

The victim's family and activists have welcomed Tuesday's verdict.

However, the victim's mother told The Indian Express newspaper that "justice will be done in the true sense only if all of them are hanged".

The assailants were on an out-of-service bus when they tricked the woman and a male friend into boarding.

Police said the assailants beat both of them and then raped the woman. She died in a Singapore hospital on 29 December - 10 days after the attack - from internal injuries.

The case sparked a national debate on the treatment of women.

Tough new laws were introduced in March which allowed the death penalty - carried out very rarely in India - to be handed down in the most serious cases of rape.

On 31 August a teenager who was found guilty of taking part in the rape was sentenced to three years in a reform facility, the maximum term possible because the crime was committed when he was 17. He also denied all the charges.

Another suspect, Ram Singh, was found dead in his cell in March. Prison officials said they believed he hanged himself but his family allege he was murdered.