Three men accused of brutally gang raping and killing a 23-year-old student in New Delhi are to plead not guilty to the charges, their lawyer has revealed.

Lawyer M L Sharma told the AFP news agency he will challenge evidence the police claim they have linking the suspects with bloodstains on the victim's clothes. "Nothing is proven yet," he said outside the court.

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A police officer guides a truck carrying the five suspects into the court precincts


Five men have appeared in court, with a sixth suspect expected to be tried separately in a juvenile court as he is 17. Under Indian law juveniles cannot be prosecuted for murder.

The suspects have been named as bus driver Ram Singh, his brother Mukesh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur.

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The suspects have been accused of carrying out an attack on December 16

The men are likely to face the death penalty if found guilty, despite the sentence rarely being passed in India.

The sheer brutality of the rape has galvanised the nation into action, with angry protesters accusing the government of not doing enough to tackle violence against women.

During the rape, the victim was attacked by six men on a bus. A metal rod was inserted in her body as the bus drove around for 40 minutes. The sustained attack resulted in the removal of almost all of her intestines.

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The attack has prompted protests

A police report seen by the Hindustan Times alleges the youngest suspect "extracted her intestine with his bare hands and suggested she be thrown off the moving vehicle devoid of her clothes."

The victim and a male friend, who was also attacked, were thrown from the bus while it was still moving. Police in Delhi said the bus then tried to mow them down.

The medical student died in a Singapore hospital after suffering multiple organ failure and a heart attack.

The government is now being accused of trying to "run away from the problem", with critics saying the student should never have been sent to Singapore for treatment.

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Vigils have been held around the world for the victim

With women's rights firmly at the top of the social agenda, the government is struggling to defend the poor rape conviction rate, especially in Delhi, which has been dubbed 'the rape capital' after figures revealed a woman is raped in Delhi every 14 hours.

Despite this, official figures show that there was only one conviction for rape in the whole of 2012.


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  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel stand guard at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel stand guard at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel stand guard at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel guide a vehicle, which is believed to be carrying the accused in a gangrape and murder case, at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel guide a vehicle, which is believed to be carrying the accused in a gangrape and murder case, at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel stand guard at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel guide a vehicle, which is believed to be carrying the accused in a gangrape and murder case, at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel look on as a vehicle, which is believed to be carrying the accused in a gangrape and murder case, arrives at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel look on as a vehicle, which is believed to be carrying the accused in a gangrape and murder case, arrives at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel stand guard at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel escort a vehicle, which is believed to be carrying the accused in a gangrape and murder case, at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel drive a vehicle, which is believed to be carrying the accused in a gangrape and murder case, at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • INDIA-RAPE-POLITICS-COURT

    Indian police personnel look on as a vehicle, which is believed to be carrying the accused in a gangrape and murder case, arrives at an entrance to Saket District Court in New Delhi on January 7, 2013. Five men charged with the brutal gang-rape and murder of a student in New Delhi will appear in court for the first time after police said they had forensic evidence to link them to the killing. AFP PHOTO/SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Delhi police van, background, believed to be carrying five men accused in a gang rape arrives at the district court, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The men, who were set to appear in court Monday, are accused of the Dec. 16 gang rape on a woman, who later died of her injuries, that has caused outrage across India, sparking protests and demands for tough new rape laws. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

  • A police officer clears the way for a police van believed to carrying five men accused in a gang rape as they arrive at the district court, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The men, who were set to appear in court Monday, are accused of the Dec. 16 gang rape on a woman, who later died of her injuries, that has caused outrage across India, sparking protests and demands for tough new rape laws. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

  • A police officer closes a gate after a Delhi police van, background, believed to be carrying five men accused in a gang rape arrived at the district court, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The men, who were set to appear in court Monday, are accused of the Dec. 16 gang rape on a woman, who later died of her injuries, that has caused outrage across India, sparking protests and demands for tough new rape laws. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

  • A Delhi police van believed to carrying the five men accused in a gang rape arrives at the district court, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The men, who were set to appear in court Monday, are accused of a Dec. 16 gang rape on a woman, who later died of her injuries, that has caused outrage across India, sparking protests and demands for tough new rape laws. (AP Photo/ Manish Swarup)

  • A police officer stands guard next to a police van believed to carrying the five men accused in a gang rape as they arrive at the district court, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The men, who were set to appear in court Monday, are accused of a Dec. 16 gang rape on a woman, who later died of her injuries, that has caused outrage across India, sparking protests and demands for tough new rape laws. (AP Photo/ Manish Swarup)

  • Indian police officers stand outside the district court where five men accused in a gang rape were brought to appear in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The men, who were set to appear in court Monday, are accused of the Dec. 16 gang rape on a woman, who later died of her injuries, that has caused outrage across India, sparking protests and demands for tough new rape laws. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

  • Indian female police officers stand guard outside the district court where five men accused in a gang rape were brought to appear in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. The men, who were set to appear in court Monday, are accused of the Dec. 16 gang rape on a woman, who later died of her injuries, that has caused outrage across India, sparking protests and demands for tough new rape laws. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)