Court convicts six accused in Kathua rape and murder case; 1 acquitted

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The 8-year-old girl was grazing horses in the foothills of the Himalayas when she was lured by kidnappers. Further controversy erupted after several sections of the public came out in open support of the accused, decrying their arrest as an attempt to victimise Hindus. All accused pleaded "not guilty".

Calling the crime a "barbaric act", state prosecutor J.K. Chopra said authorities had asked for the death penalty for three of those convicted. However, whether those guilty are sentenced to death is left to the discretion of the judge in each case. Her body was found a week after she went missing.

Official statistics show that incidents of rape are increasing in India, although it is unclear how much of the rise is due to more reporting of such cases.

The Kathua killing was one of the cases that prompted stricter laws against child rape in India.

Who are the convicted men?

Concerns over the impartiality of the state's judicial system led to a Supreme Court ruling in May of previous year ordering the trial of the accused to be moved to the neighboring state of Punjab.

The Pathankot judge had earlier in the day sentenced three accused - Sanjhi Ram, Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar - to life in prison and handed a five-year sentence to three other accused - Anand Dutta, Tilak Raj and Surender Verma. The court though acquitted Vishal but convicted his father Sanji Ram, his cousin and a special police officer Deepak Khajuria as they were found guilty of the crime.

The girl's family had approached India's Supreme Court for protection, saying they had received threats to their lives.

He added "the whole country fought this case, irrespective of religious affiliations".

A seventh man was acquitted, while an eighth person, who was underage, faces a separate trial.

When I informed the girl's mother that six of the accused had been convicted, she began to cry and blessed me for being the bearer of good news.

"Our family has gone through hell", he said. Another young girl was raped and strangled to death in Meerut in northern India. "We will not eat or drink but we will get justice for our daughter", she said.

Two state ministers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party, later resigned for joining a rally by local Hindu groups in defence of the accused.

"Was expecting capital punishment for Kathua rape and murder criminals".

The Crime Branch's charge sheet that detailed the findings alleged that the crime was committed to force the victim's Muslim nomadic tribe to flee an area dominated by Hindus.

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