Indian villagers 'confess to rape of tourist'
Updated: 2013-03-18 09:30
Five villagers have confessed to gang raping a Swiss tourist in central India, police said on Sunday, in an incident that has renewed focus on the rampant violence against women in the country.
The woman was on a cycling holiday with her husband in the impoverished Madhya Pradesh state when six men attacked the couple on Friday night, sexually assaulting the woman in front of her husband and robbing the pair, police said.
"We have detained five men and they have confessed to gang raping the woman and attacking her husband," local police official M.S. Dhodee told AFP.
The five men, who eke out a living as small-scale farmers, have been arrested on charges of rape and robbery, Dhodee said.
Police are searching for a sixth man, who was also involved in the crime, he said.
The alleged rapists live in a village near the forested area where the couple had stopped to camp for the night, while on a cycling trip to the popular tourist destination of Agra in northern India, Dhodee said.
"They were passing by, noticed the couple putting up their tent and saw an opportunity to attack and rape the woman," he said. The husband was tied up during the attack.
They also stole a laptop, a mobile phone and 10,000 rupees ($185) from the couple, which police are trying to recover, added Dhodee.
After the attack, the rape victim, aged about 40, and her husband, reported to be about 30, stopped a motorcyclist who took them to the nearest police station, said SonntagsBlick, a Swiss German-language newspaper.
The woman underwent a medical examination at a local hospital before leaving for the Indian capital Delhi, police said.
"The victim and her husband have left for Delhi, since there was no need for her to stay in hospital here," another local police official U.C. Shadangi told AFP.
The couple, who were on a three-month vacation in India, had visited the temple town of Orchha and were planning to cycle to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal, nearly 210 kilometers away.
Police in central India said on Sunday that they have detained 20 men in the gang-rape case.
So far, no arrests have been made, said senior police officer D.K. Arya.
The couple told police the woman had been raped by seven or eight men, but it was dark and they could not be sure of the exact number, Arya said. They said the husband was also attacked by the men.
Arya said as an initial step, police have registered a rape case against seven men while they search nearby villages for other suspects.
The attack came three months after the fatal gang rape of a woman aboard a New Delhi bus outraged Indians and spurred the government to pass laws to protect women.
The Swiss ambassador in India, Linus von Castelmur, has spoken to the couple and has demanded a swift investigation of the incident by Indian authorities.
Von Castelmur said he was "most distressed" by the incident and has assured the couple of the Swiss government's help and support.
"Their health and treatment is the priority of the moment," the Swiss embassy said in a statement.
The embassy said it was in touch with local authorities in Madhya Pradesh and has urged a "swift investigation and for justice to be done".
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 is likely to raise concerns in India about the country's tourism industry. According to government statistics, around 6.5 million foreign tourists visited India in 2011, generating about $120 billion for the nation's travel and hospitality sector.