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Rape trial will begin this week

The trial of five men accused of the rape and murder of a student aboard a bus in New Delhi will begin on Thursday.

The case should have none of the long delays commonly associated with India's justice system, according to a defence lawyer.

Judge Yogesh Khanna denied a defence motion to make the proceedings public, ruling that the courtroom must remain closed because of the sensitive nature of the crime, said VK Anand, the lawyer for one of the defendants, Ram Singh.

The extreme brutality of the attack has sparked weeks of protests and focused global attention on India's rarely discussed crisis of violence against women. Monday's hearing was the first since the case was moved to a new fast-track court set up specifically to handle such crimes.

The five defendants' faces were covered by woollen scarves as they arrived in the court, surrounded by a phalanx of police. A sixth suspect in the attack claims to be a juvenile and his case is being handled separately.

The judge told the lawyers to prepare for opening statements to begin on Thursday and agreed to a defence motion to hold the trial every day throughout the week, instead of allowing the gaps of weeks and months between hearings common in other courts, said Mr Anand.

Defence lawyers are awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court on their motion to move the trial outside New Delhi because of the strong emotions in the city.

Police said the victim and a male friend were heading home from an evening film on December 16 when they boarded a bus, where they were attacked by the six assailants. The attackers beat the man and raped the woman, inflicting massive internal injuries with a metal bar, police said.

The victims were eventually dumped on the roadside, and the woman died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

Lawyers for the accused claim police mistreated their clients and beat them to force them to confess.

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