Court Orders Arrest Of 4 Police On Charge Of Destroying Evidence In Kashmir Rape-murder Case

15 July 2009
Associated Press

Srinagar: A court in Indian-run Kashmir ordered the arrest of four police officers Wednesday for allegedly destroying evidence in the rape and murder of two women that triggered violent protests last month. Barin Ghosh, chief justice of the Jammu-Kashmir High Court, also ordered DNA samples from the four men to be matched with the semen found on the bodies of the two women - a 17-year-old girl and her 22-year-old sister-in-law. The women's bodies were found in a shallow stream in Shopian, a town 35 miles (60 kilometers) south of Srinagar, the main city of Indian-controlled Kashmir, on May 30. The incident has further inflamed anti-India sentiments in Kashmir, a Muslim-majority territory where militant groups have been fighting for independence since 1989. More than 68,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians. An independent inquiry last month by a retired judge into the rape-murder did named any suspect but found the four policemen guilty of destroying and suppressing evidence while investigating the case. They were subsequently suspended from duty. Ghosh's order to test the DNA indicates he believes the four men could be suspects in the case. Police had initially said the two women appeared to have drowned but a week later classified the case as that of rape and murder. The army or the police in Kashmir have not responded to the allegations or to Wednesday's development. The discovery of the women's bodies triggered widespread anger in Shopian, where the residents believed the killings were carried out by security forces. Two people were killed and more than 400 injured in weeklong violent demonstrations and clashes between residents and police in Shopian. On Wednesday, Ghosh asked Shopian residents to end the complete shutdown that has paralyzed normal life in the town since the bodies were found. Human rights groups and separatist leaders have long accused Indian security forces of using rape and sexual molestation to intimidate the local population. Rights groups say investigations into such crimes rarely yield results and are often meant only to calm public anger. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan that is claimed in its entirety by both. The South Asian neighbors have fought two of three wars over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947.