17 men charged with raping 12-year-old girl over months

Chennai (India): Seventeen men have appeared in court in the south Indian city of Chennai charged with repeatedly raping a 12-year-old girl over the course of seven months.

The case is generating intense anger, including from the city’s legal fraternity, some of whom were part of a mob that allegedly attacked some of the accused before they appeared in court.

The accused men included security guards, lift operators and plumbers working at the 300-apartment block where the girl lived, police said.

The men, whose ages range from 23 to 66, allegedly sedated the girl and then took her into the elevator and into vacant apartment buildings to assault her. Indian media have reported that the girl, whose hearing is impaired, was also taken to a basement, terrace, gym and public restrooms.

The Times of India reported that the first to assault her was a 66-year-old elevator operator in the largely unoccupied apartment complex. It was alleged he then brought other men from outside the complex who filmed the assaults.

Local media said the men threatened the girl with knives and told her they would release videos of the assault if she told anyone.

On Saturday the girl told her sister, who was visiting from Delhi, prompting the family to file a complaint, the Times of India reported.

The men were arrested on Monday on charges of rape, attempted murder and criminal intimidation.

Television footage showed chaotic scenes as lawyers and members of the public attacked the suspects on the staircase of the city’s high court as they were brought in.

The Madras high court advocates association (MHAA) announced no lawyers from its group would appear for the suspects.

“We have decided not to represent these characters,” the MHAA’s president, G Mohana Krishnan, said. “After seeing the entire incident and also the condition of the victim, we have said we will not appear for the accused.”

He said it was the first time the lawyers’ group had decided to boycott a group of suspects. “None of us will change our minds, and if anyone does, we will oppose them,” Krishnan said.

The family of the girl are staying with relatives to escape media scrutiny around the case, which has attracted national headlines.

On average more than 100 cases of women and girls being raped were reported every day in India in 2016, according to the most recent figures made available by the national crime records bureau. About six of those were girls below the age of 12.

In January an eight-year-old girl was kidnapped, drugged and raped for five days in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir before being killed with a rock. This led to the introduction of the death penalty for the rape of girls under the age of 12.

In June a report from Thomson Reuters Foundation found that India was the least safe country in the world to be a woman, followed by Afghanistan and Syria.