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Five plead not guilty to Indian gang rape

NEW DELHI, Feb. 2 (UPI) — Five men pleaded not guilty Saturday to the rape and murder a woman on a bus in a case that has stirred protests across India.

Police charge the men lured the victim — a 23-year-old physiotherapist — onto a bus in December, where they assaulted and beat her with a metal bar before throwing her on to a highway. She died two weeks after the attack.

The trial is scheduled to start Tuesday, and the prosecution is expected to call three witnesses, A.P. Singh, an attorney representing two of the defendants.

He says one of his clients, Vinay Sharma, was not on the bus at the time. The other client, Akshay Thakur, was hiding under a seat on the bus and never took part in the attack, Singh said.

The prosecution claims to have strong evidence against all the men, including bloody clothing, DNA, mobile phone records, confessions and eyewitness testimony, The Times of India reported.

In the aftermath of the attack, thousands of protesters demonstrated across the nation.

The government fast-tracked legislation Friday that would make gang rapes resulting in death punishable by execution. Minimum penalties would be raised to 20 years for gang rape and rape of a minor.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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