All four men convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman in Delhi were sentenced to death on Friday (September 13), nine months after a crime whose savagery triggered furious protests across India and rare national debate about violence against women.

The four men were found guilty this week of luring the trainee physiotherapist onto a bus on December 16, raping and torturing her with a metal bar and then throwing her naked and bleeding onto the road. She died two weeks later.

"Today the verdict on the sentence of the Delhi gang rape case of December 16 has come from the court and all four accused, Akshay (Thakur), Vinay (Sharma), Pawan (Gupta) and Mukesh (Singh) have been sentenced to "hanged till death", defence lawyer for two of the convicted men, A. P. Singh said.

One of the four men sentenced to death by hanging, gym instructor Vinay Sharma, was dragged out of the court crying.

The victim became a symbol of the dangers women face in a country where a rape is reported on average every 21 minutes and acid attacks and cases of molestation are common.

The four men were sentenced to death despite their lawyers' pleas to ignore popular and political pressure for a penalty handed down in only the "rarest of rare" cases.

The defence lawyer acting for two of the convicted men said that he was willing to wait before he files an appeal and if the sentence proves to be a deterrant and no rape cases are reported in New Delhi or anywhere else in the country within the next two months, he may decide not to appeal.

The sentencing capped a seven-month trial, often held behind closed doors, that was punctuated dramatically by a fifth defendant hanging himself in his jail cell. A sixth, who was under 18 at the time of the attack, was earlier sentenced to three years detention, the maximum allowed under juvenile law.

Presented by Adam Justice

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