Police investigating the gang-rape of a 23-year-old female photojournalist in the western Indian city of Mumbai arrested the fifth and final person accused of the crime, on Sunday, even as the woman’s family issued a statement appealing for privacy and thanking the authorities, police and media for their support.
The five suspects -- Mohammed Kasim Hafiz Shaikh alias Kasim Bengali, Siraj Rehman Khan, Salim Ansari, Vijay Jadhav alias Nanu, and Chand Abdul Sattar Shaikh -- were reported to have threatened to kill the woman, and a male colleague who accompanied her on a photo assignment, and warned them of dire consequences if the incident was reported, according to The Hindu newspaper. Salim Ansari, who is said to have instigated the rape, has been named the main accused.
Prithviraj Chavan, the chief minister of Maharashtra state of which Mumbai is the capital, said the government will appoint Ujjwal Nikam -- a renowned lawyer associated with several high-profile cases including the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai -- as the public prosecutor in the trial, which will be held in a fast-track court.
According to the Press Trust of India, or PTI, police are searching for a mobile phone that was used to capture pictures of the attack.
The woman, who is associated with an English-language magazine, is receiving medical treatment and is recovering from injuries, NDTV reported, citing doctors at the city's Jaslok Hospital, where she was admitted after the incident.
“Rape is not the end of life. I want strictest punishment for all the accused and want to join duty as early as possible,” she is reported to have said to Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar, a member of the National Commission for Women, who visited her in hospital, according to PTI.
The woman’s family thanked the media for showing “sensitivity and restraint” and appealed to “continue to respect the privacy” of the woman and her family.
“We hope and pray for your continued support and campaign in the fight for justice for my daughter and women at large in India. Now that stringent laws are in place, we are optimistic that your and the government’s efforts will help fast track the matter so that the severest of punishment is meted out,” the family said in a statement.
“Please continue to respect the privacy of my daughter and me in this most trying time of our lives and give us the breathing space we so desperately need by not visiting our residence.”
The woman was gang-raped on Thursday evening inside a decrepit building, which used to house a textile mill, in Lower Parel in central Mumbai. Her male colleague was beaten up and restrained before she was attacked.
The two were out on a photo assignment to capture on camera the city's many defunct textile mills, which occupy vast tracts of land in a rapidly developing neighborhood where real estate prices are some of the most expensive in the world.
The attack, which occurred in Mumbai, widely regarded as one of the safest cities in the country, has renewed public outrage over women's safety in India after the brutal assault on and resultant death of another 23-year-old woman in the nation's capital of New Delhi in December.