A third suspect accused of fatally gang-raping a 23-year-old student in a moving bus in New Delhi last month will plead not guilty to all charges, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Advocate M.L. Sharma said he would file the plea on behalf of Ram Singh, the driver of the bus where the attack allegedly took place which has fuelled angry protests across India.
"I am representing Ram Singh and I will file a 'not guilty' plea," Sharma, who is also representing Singh's brother Mukesh and labourer Akshay Thakur in the case, told AFP.
The advocate said on Tuesday that the other two men would also plead not guilty to the string of charges including gang-rape, murder and kidnapping.
"Whoever committed this heinous crime should be punished but my clients are not the real culprits," he said.
It is not yet clear who will represent the two remaining defendants. All five men are residents of New Delhi slums aged from 19 to 35. A sixth accused, who is 17, is to be tried in a separate court for juveniles.
Officials at Tihar jail, the maximum security prison where the accused are held, confirmed that Sharma had met Ram Singh late on Tuesday.
Prosecutors have said they have evidence of bloodstains linking the men to the attack, but the advocate said he would challenge the police over their handling of evidence, while refusing to give details.
The next hearing, to be held behind closed doors, has been scheduled for Thursday when a magistrate is expected to transfer the case for trial in a special fast-track court.
The brutal attack on the medical student and her boyfriend has stirred anger in India, with politicians and the murder victim's family calling for the death penalty for the culprits.
The pair had been to watch a film when they were lured onto a bus. The gang are accused of repeatedly raping and violating the woman with an iron bar, causing horrific internal injuries.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]