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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 June, 2005, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Twelve men jailed for mass rape
An Indian court has sentenced five men to life imprisonment and imposed 23 year jail terms to seven others after a mass rape four years ago.

The men were found guilty of raping 15 women in a remote village in the western state of Maharashtra. Two others were acquitted.

The court said the men jailed for life should not be granted bail and should remain in prison until they die.

In India, life imprisonment is generally equivalent to 14 years.

Cheers of jubilation

The BBC's Zubair Ahmed in Mumbai (Bombay) says that a large number of women, including the victims from the village where the rape occurred, were present in court when the verdict was announced.

It was received with cheers of jubilation all around.

Public Prosecutor Ujwal Nikam said his team was happy with the verdicts, and that the victims had told him that justice had been done.

The judge gave a landmark order today in this mass rape case that rocked the state and the country in 2001
Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam

Our correspondent says that the defendants were all said to be members of a dreaded gang of bandits.

Some of the 52 witnesses who gave evidence said that the raped villagers endured a four hour ordeal, and throughout that time their village was plundered.

The victims were aged between 26 and 70, and in some cases were repeatedly raped.

Women's rights groups claim that hundreds of rapes go unreported in India for fear of social discrimination.

Correspondents say that latest government figures show there were more than 16,000 rapes in India in 2002.

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