An Indian court on Monday sentenced three men to life imprisonment for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir state last year, a lawyer for the defence said, in a case that sparked outrage across the country.
Three other men also convicted in the case were given a five-year prison sentence, lawyer Vinod Mahajan told reporters outside the courtroom in the northern town of Pathankot.
The girl, from a nomadic Muslim community that roams the forests of Kashmir, was drugged, held captive in a temple and sexually assaulted for a week before being strangled and battered to death with a stone in January 2018.
The abduction, rape and killing of the child was part of a plan to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, the 15-page charge sheet said.
Among those accused were a Hindu priest and police officers, fanning communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the area.
‘This is a victory of truth,’ prosecution lawyer M Farooqi told reporters outside the court. ‘The girl and her family has got justice today. We are satisfied with the judgment.’
The case shocked India, which has an appalling record for violence against women and girls, and led to the introduction of the death penalty for rapists of girls below the age of 12.
The trial, held in private, began over a year ago in Pathankot, a town about 70 km (44 miles) from Rasana village in Kathua district, where the incident happened, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
India's Supreme Court shifted the trial to the neighbouring state of Punjab after the girl's family and lawyer said they faced death threats, and local lawyers and Hindu politicians, including some from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, held protests against police filing charges in court.
India has long been plagued by violence against women and children. Reported rapes climbed 60 per cent to 40,000 from 2012 to 2016, according to government statistics, and many more go unreported, especially in rural areas.
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