5 nabbed in India over tourist's 'gang rape'
FIVE men have now been arrested over the alleged gang rape and extortion of a Japanese tourist held as a sex slave for nearly a month in a basement near a famous Buddhist shrine in India, officials said yesterday.
The 22-year-old's ordeal began in Kolkata, where she was befriended by three local men shortly after arriving on Nov 20, one of the city's top police officers told AFP.
The men, one of whom spoke Japanese, first managed to persuade her to withdraw around US$1,200 (S$1,600) in cash before travelling with her to the holy shrine of Bodh Gaya in the neighbouring state of Bihar.
There, she was handed over to two brothers - Sajid Khan, 32, and his 25-year-old brother Jawed Khan - who allegedly locked her in a secluded underground room and raped her repeatedly for nearly a month.
The case is the latest in a string of high-profile sex attacks that have highlighted frightening levels of violence against women in the world's second-most populous country.
The two brothers, who worked as tourist guides, were arrested last Friday and taken to Kolkata where they appeared in court late on Saturday. A magistrate ordered that they be remanded in custody until Friday for an identification parade.
Kolkata joint police commissioner Pallab Kanti Ghosh said the other three men were being held on suspicion of extorting money from the victim and then handing her over to the alleged rapists.
"We have arrested three people who befriended the victim in Kolkata. They have been charged with common conspiracy and intention to kidnap and rape," the commissioner said.
"The men managed to extort 76,000 rupees (US$1,200) from her and convinced her to travel to Bodh Gaya with them in their car."
The woman managed to escape from Gaya and reached the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, where she met some Japanese tourists who helped her contact the consulate in Kolkata.
Although it was not immediately clear when her ordeal ended, the police said she filed the police report in the last week of last month.
"(When) we came to know of the incident...we assisted her in registering the complaint with the police," Japan's Consul-general in Kolkata, Kazumi Endo, told AFP.
Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma conceded that the incident would further dent India's image.
"We are only getting 69 lakh (6.9 million) tourists in a year, so that's a matter of concern for us. (We have) to take care of the security of travellers," he told CNN-IBN news network.
Samina Khatoon, sister of the men arrested in Gaya, denied the charge of gang rape and demanded a thorough probe into the incident.
"We also want a medical examination of the victim. It will prove that my brothers are innocent," she told AFP by phone.
India has faced intense scrutiny over its efforts to curb violence against women following the fatal gang rape of a medical student in New Delhi in December 2012, which sparked a global outcry.
Sex attacks against women from Western countries, including the United States and Britain, have received major media coverage and tourism bosses are wary of their negative impact.
Last January, a 51-year-old Danish tourist was robbed and gang-raped at knife-point in Delhi.
In 2013, a Swiss cyclist holidaying in Madhya Pradesh was robbed and raped by five men, all of whom were later jailed for life.
The latest attack echoes that of a 25-year-old Japanese woman who was gang-raped in 2010 while on her way to a railway station in Gaya.