NEW DELHI: Four men were found guilty on Tuesday of the rape of a woman on a bus in the Indian capital and her murder, closing a chapter on a crime that had triggered mass protests about the treatment of women in India.

Arguments on sentencing are due to begin on Wednesday and all four could be hanged for the murder conviction, said V. K. Anand, the defence lawyer for one of the accused, Mukesh Singh.

They had all pleaded not guilty.

“All four accused committed on all sections,” said Anand.

Indian law prohibits naming the woman victim, a trainee physiotherapist from a lower-middle class family who had worked in a call centre.

The verdict capped a seven-month trial, often held behind closed doors, that was punctuated dramatically by a fifth defendant hanging himself in his jail cell.

Outside the court, the case cemented India's reputation as unsafe for women, even after parliament passed new laws against sexual crimes.

The case resonated with thousands of urban Indians who took to the streets in fury after the attack. The young woman's path through education onto the first rungs of middle-class life seemed to epitomise the aspirations of millions of young women in the world's second most populous nation.

At least three of the four men convicted will appeal the guilty verdicts, lawyers said.

Anand told reporters outside the courtroom: “My client was simply driving the bus. He confessed fairly that he was driving the bus, but he did not know what went on inside.”

A.P. Singh, defence lawyer for Akshay Thakur and Vinay Sharma, called the convictions “political” and said he would appeal on behalf of both of them.

“We will now go to the High Court with our appeal,” he told reporters. “This is a political conviction.”

The lawyer for the fourth convict, Pawan Gupta, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Bus cleaner Akshay Kumar Singh, gym instructor Vinay Sharma, fruit-seller Pawan Gupta, and unemployed Mukesh Singh were found guilty of luring the woman and a male friend onto the bus on the night of Dec 16 2012, as the pair returned home from watching a movie at a shopping mall in south Delhi.

As the bus drove through the streets of the capital, the men repeatedly raped and tortured the 23-year-old with a metal bar before dumping her and her friend, naked and semi-conscious, on the road.

The woman died in a Singapore hospital two weeks later of internal injuries.

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