Three accused of India gang rape and murder to deny charges

Protesters

A lawyer for three suspects in the brutal rape and killing of a young woman in New Delhi says they will plead not guilty in the case that has transfixed India and raised questions about the treatment of women.

Manohar Lal Sharma said he represents bus driver Ram Singh, Ram Singh's brother Mukesh, and another man, Akshay Thakur.

The lawyer spoke briefly on his way into a New Delhi court complex for a hearing for those accused of attacking the woman on the bus in India's capital.

Today's hearing is expected to result in the case being sent to a special "fast-track" court.

India's legal system is slow and inefficient, but officials are eager to make sure the high-profile case moves quickly.

"They are innocent," said Mr Sharma, who added that he took the case in part to confront the police over "how manipulated evidence is placed for fixing the innocent people".

Five men have been charged with attacking the 23-year-old woman and her male companion on a bus as it was driven through streets of India's capital.

The woman was raped and assaulted with a metal bar on December 16 and eventually died of her injuries. Rape victims are not identified in India, even if they die, and rape trials are closed to the media.

Another lawyer, VK Anand, says he also represents the two Singh brothers. It is not yet clear if the other defendants have lawyers.

Large protests have taken place across India since the attack, with women telling relentless stories of abuse - from catcalls to bus gropings to rapes - and of a police and judicial system that does little to stop it.

Authorities have charged the men with murder, rape and other crimes that could bring the death penalty.

A sixth suspect, who is 17, is expected to be tried in a juvenile court where the maximum sentence would be three years in a reform facility.

Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said last week that a DNA test confirmed that the blood of the victim matched blood stains found on the clothes of all the accused.

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