(Adds mother's reaction, defence to appeal, background)
NEW DELHI, March 13 Four men convicted of raping
and murdering a woman in New Delhi had their death sentences
upheld on Thursday for a crime that caused a huge public
backlash against an entrenched culture of violence against women
The victim, a trainee physiotherapist who was raped for an
hour and tortured with an iron rod on a moving bus, became a
symbol of the dangers women face in a country where a rape is
reported on average every 21 minutes.
"The day the murderers of my daughter are hanged, we will
feel we have got justice," the victim's mother said after the
Delhi High Court confirmed the sentence of hanging handed down
by a trial judge last September.
"We hope, even in other such cases, justice will be done in
the same fashion," the mother said. Indian law bars the press
from identifying rape victims.
Defence lawyers said they would appeal to the Supreme Court,
with one denouncing Thursday's decision as politically
motivated. India holds a general election in April and May.
"This is not a fair trial," A.P. Singh, representing two of
the convicts, told reporters after the ruling by a panel of two
female judges. "If the judgment had come after the elections, it
would have been in our favour ... Clearly, the judges are under
Gym instructor Vinay Sharma, bus cleaner Akshay Kumar Singh,
fruit-seller Pawan Gupta, and unemployed Mukesh Singh were
sentenced to death for their part in the gang rape and killing
of the 23-year-old woman in December 2012.
During the seven-month trial, a fifth defendant hanged
himself in his cell. A sixth, who was under 18 at the time of
the attack, was sentenced to three years' detention, the maximum
allowed under juvenile law.
In his original sentencing of the four, the trial judge said
India's courts "cannot turn a blind eye to the need to send a
strong deterrent message to the perpetrators of such crimes".
If the Supreme Court upholds the sentence, a final decision
will lie with the president, who has the power to grant
clemency. Indian courts condemn around 130 people a year to
death but the sentences are rarely carried out.
(Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Writing by Douglas Busvine;
Editing by Malini Menon and Nick Macfie)