Indian woman who alleged gang rape dies after burn attack

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A Samajwadi Party activist (C in pink) is being held by police personnel as she protests against the Unnao rape case during a demonstration at Vishan Sabha, the seat of the legislature of Uttar Pradesh state, in Lucknow on December 7, 2019. (AFP)
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Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a leader of India's main opposition Congress party, arrives to meet the relatives of a 23-year-old rape victim, who died in a New Delhi hospital on Friday after she was set on fire by a gang of men, which included her alleged rapists, in Uttar Pradesh, India, Dec. 7, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 07 December 2019

Indian woman who alleged gang rape dies after burn attack

  • The woman was attacked in the state of Uttar Pradesh by a group of men that included two of the five she had accused of gang rape last year
  • The 23-year-old woman suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted Thursday from Uttar Pradesh to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died late Friday of cardiac arrest

NEW DELHI: An alleged rape victim in northern India who was set on fire while heading to a court hearing in the case has died in a New Delhi hospital, officials said Saturday.
The woman was attacked in the state of Uttar Pradesh by a group of men that included two of the five she had accused of gang rape last year, police said. The two were out of custody on bail.
Five men were arrested in connection with the burn attack, police said.
The 23-year-old woman suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted Thursday from Uttar Pradesh to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died late Friday of cardiac arrest, said Dr. Shalab Kumar, head of the hospital’s burn unit.
Yogi Adityanath, the state’s chief minister, said that the case would be heard in a fast track court and that the “strictest of punishment will be given to the culprits.”
Priyanka Gandhi, general secretary of the opposition Congress party, faulted the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, for failing to provide the woman with security, even after a similar case in the state in which a woman who accused a BJP lawmaker of rape was severely injured in a vehicle hit-and-run incident.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is known for its poor record regarding crimes against women. According to the most recent available official crime records, police registered more than 4,200 cases of rape in the state in 2017 — the most in India.
Government figures for 2017 also show that police registered 33,658 cases of rape in the country. But the real figure is believed to be far higher as many women in India don’t report cases to police due to fear.
Indian courts also seem to be struggling to deal with these cases. Data shows that more than 90% of cases of crimes against women are pending in city courts.
The burn victim’s death came on the same day police in the southern state of Telangana fatally shot four men being held on suspicion of raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian after investigators took them to the crime scene. Their deaths drew both praise and condemnation in a case that has sparked protests across the country.
The woman’s burned corpse was found last week by a passer-by near the city of Hyderabad, India’s tech hub, after she went missing the previous night.
Police took the four suspects, who had not been charged with any crime, to the scene to help them locate the victim’s phone and other items, officials said. They said the men grabbed police firearms and began shooting, and were killed when police returned fire.
The Telangana High Court ordered authorities to preserve the bodies of the suspects and submit a video of the autopsies ahead of a court hearing set for Monday.
Separately, the National Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous body within India’s Parliament, sent a fact-finding mission to the crime scene and mortuary where the suspects’ bodies were held on Saturday amid questions from opposition lawmakers about the circumstances of the suspects’ deaths.


Why Turkey wants to give war a chance in the South Caucasus

Updated 52 sec ago

Why Turkey wants to give war a chance in the South Caucasus

  • Hand of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman foreign policy suspected in sudden escalation of long-simmering conflict
  • Religious fault-lines exposed by the fighting viewed by Turkey as useful for projecting power and influence

DUBAI: The neo-Ottoman foreign policy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that has laid waste to large expanses of the Arab world in recent years, now threatens to set the South Caucasus ablaze. Ankara ratcheted up its divisive rhetoric as a second day of heavy fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces, in which at least 21 were killed and hundreds wounded, raised fears of an all-out war between the longtime foes.

While the US added its voice to a chorus of appeals for calm and a peaceful solution, Turkish officials sounded eager to give war a chance. Although not unexpected from a government known for its denial of the Ottoman-era genocide of ethnic Armenians, the remarks by the Turks are strongly evocative of a political pathology that led to the massacre of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians between 1915 and 1923.

“We will support our Azerbaijani brothers with all our means in their fight to protect their territorial integrity,” Hulusi Akar, Turkey’s defense minister, said in a statement, pointedly adding: “The greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Caucasus is Armenia's aggression, and it should give up this aggression which will throw the region into fire.”

Clashes have raged on after erupting on Sunday along the front lines of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly mountainous ethnic Armenian region that declared its independence and triggered a war in the early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives, but is still considered part of Azerbaijan by the international community. The territorial dispute is at the root of the deadly fighting which flared up in 2016 and again earlier this year.

In a series of tweets, Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe who specializes in the Caucasus, said: “Azerbaijan, the losing side in the conflict of the 1990s, is the side with an incentive to use military aggression to reshape the facts on the ground. This is almost certainly what they did on Sunday. And yes, they probably picked a moment when they thought the world was distracted.

“But this does not mean the Armenian side is peace-loving. For a long time, they have not agreed to substantial talks about the conflict. The way they call territory they occupied outside Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s ‘liberated’ makes them ‘passive aggressive,’ a co-sponsor of violence.”

Analysts say the religious fault-lines exposed by the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict have created an opening in the South Caucasus for influence projection by President Erdogan, whose expansionist foreign policy panders to a constituency encompassing both hardcore Islamists and secular ultra-nationalists.

On Monday, Erdogan amplified the message of his defense minister, saying on Twitter: “While I call on the Armenian people to take hold of their future against their leadership that is dragging them to catastrophe and those using it like puppets, we also call on the entire world to stand with Azerbaijan in their battle against invasion and cruelty.”

Echoing their leader, some journalists in Turkey have called for the use of military force against Armenia to protect Azerbaijani interests. Ibrahim Karagul, the chief editor of the pro-government newspaper Yenisafak, advised the dropping of a “missile in the middle of (Armenia’s capital) Yerevan” to show Turkish solidarity with Azerbaijan, adding: “In this way, we can build a Caucasus Islam Army within 100 years.”

Armenian officials say some Turkish troops stayed back after they went to Azerbaijan for large-scale military drills in August. Syrian Kurdish YPG militia sources report that hundreds of Syrian mercenaries have been moved through Turkey’s southeastern province of Kilis. Elements of the Syrian National Army (SNA) claim that up to “1,000 jihadists” in their ranks have been deployed in Azerbaijan as mercenaries.

Hikmet Durgun, a Turkish journalist, has said SNA militants have likely been deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh, with others speculating that some of the mercenaries were drawn from Turkish-backed Syrian factions on the Libyan battleground. The Syrian mercenaries were reportedly recruited through an intermediary of the Turkish intelligence agency with a promised monthly wage of $2,000, and transported via Turkish military cargo planes to the Azeri cities of Ganja and Baku using Georgian airspace.

“About a month ago, rumors spread on WhatsApp among SNA fighters that they can register to go to Azerbaijan. Many registered over WhatsApp, others apparently through offices in the Turkish-controlled areas. The fighters registered due to the enticing rumored salaries of $2K-$2.5K,” Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the Center for Global Policy, said on Twitter.

Idlib Post, a news website, published a photo purporting to show a group of 300 SNA fighters departing from the countryside of Aleppo for Azerbaijan via Turkey. The men were mainly selected from the Hamza division, a rebel group that has acted as a proxy force for the Turkish in operations in northern Syria, according to Lindsey Snell, an award-winning journalist.

An aide to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev vigorously denied on Monday that Turkey had sent fighters from Syria to the South Caucasus.

“Rumours of militants from Syria allegedly being redeployed to Azerbaijan is another provocation by the Armenian side and complete nonsense,” said the aide, Khikmet Gadzhiev.

However, Paul Antonopoulos, a regional expert, thinks there is strong evidence that Turkey has relocated militants from northern Syria and will likely use them in the same way that they were used in Libya.

“Turkey will unequivocally support Azerbaijan in every possible way they can, bar a direct military intervention. Turkey’s strong diplomatic support for Azerbaijan will continue, as well as material and intelligence aid,” he told Arab News.

“I would estimate that when there is enough international pressure to end the hostilities, Russia and Turkey will mediate together to bring about a temporary end to the hostilities.

“Armenia is a member state of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Eurasian military alliance led by Russia. This would likely deter Turkey from directly intervening militarily and thus the conflict will be contained between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”

Against this backdrop of soaring geopolitical tensions, Carnegie Europe’s De Waal believes, ultimately, it will be up to the Armenians and Azerbaijanis “to make the strategic decision to deal with one another and follow a plan that involves concessions” and leads to peace.

“That will happen one day — but bloodshed delays that day by creating more mutual insecurity and fear,” he said on Twitter.