Swiss Tourist Gang Rape Suspects Appear In Court In Central India

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SWISS TOURIST GANG RAPE SUSPECTS APPEAR
In this Sunday, March 17, 2013 photo, five men, faces covered, who are among the six accused of raping a Swiss tourist who was cycling with her husband in central India, stand at a police control room after they were detained, in Datia, India. (AP Photo) | AP
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NEW DELHI -- Six men accused of raping a Swiss tourist who was cycling with her husband in central India were produced in court Monday and charged with gang rape.

The suspects appeared in the magistrate's court in Madhya Pradesh state with their faces covered with black cloth, police superintendent Chandra Shekhar Solanki said.

It was not clear how they pleaded in court, but during their arrest Sunday they confessed to the crime, police said. The men, who are poor farmers from nearby villages, also face additional charges of robbing the Swiss couple.

The attack, which occurred Friday night as the couple camped in a forest in Datia district, came three months after the fatal gang rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus which spurred outrage over the treatment of women in Indian society and the country's justice system.

The Swiss couple told police that the woman had been raped by seven or eight men, but that it was dark and they could not be sure of the exact number.

The men beat up the husband, tied him to a tree before raping the woman, police said. They also stole the couple's cellphone, laptop computer and 10,000 rupees ($185). Police said they recovered the laptop and phone from one of the suspects.

The Swiss tourists were on a three-month India holiday and had visited the temple town of Orchha. They were planning to cycle to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal, about 210 kilometers (130 miles) away.

They set out from Orchha on Friday and pitched their tent in the forest near Jatia village when they were attacked by men armed with sticks, police said.

Last month, the Swiss government issued a travel notice for India that included a warning about "increasing numbers of rapes and other sexual offenses" in the South Asian nation, and the latest incident could prompt other countries to issue similar warnings.

On Monday, the Press Trust of India news agency reported that the 39-year-old woman said she will stay in India for now to help the investigation. There was no immediate confirmation and phone calls to the Swiss Embassy went unanswered.

Indian Tourism Minister K. Chiranjeevi met the Swiss ambassador to assure him that the victim would receive justice, a statement from his office said. Chiranjeevi also said the Indian government needs to do more to ensure that tourists inform local police stations before venturing into remote areas.

After last December's bus attack, the government passed a law increasing prison terms for rape from the existing seven to 10 years to a maximum of 20 years. The law provides for the death penalty in cases of rape that result in death or leave the victim in a coma. It has also made voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women punishable under criminal law.

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