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Jailed suspect in India gang rape found dead

NEW DELHI -- Responding to widespread shock, the government ordered an investigation Monday into the prison death of one of the men charged with the gang rape of a student in a moving bus last year, a horrific incident that sparked a national uproar over women's safety.

A prison guard found Ram Singh, 33, the bus driver and alleged leader of the gang that raped and fatally wounded the young woman, hanging in his cell at dawn Monday.

Anti-rape protesters had demanded that the accused men be sentenced to death, and Indians were expecting the harshest verdict from the court, but Singh's apparent suicide came as a jolt to the public.

His lawyer charged foul play, his father said it was murder, and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde called it "a major security lapse." Anti-rape protesters questioned the security inside the fortresslike Tihar Jail.

Hours after the news of the prison death, another defendant in the case pleaded with the judge in a city court: "Shoot me, but don't send me back to jail," according to his lawyer, A.P. Singh.

Prison officials said Ram Singh had chatted with his three cellmates late into the night. But after they fell asleep, he hanged himself from a grill on the ceiling by tying his clothes and pieces of blanket together to make a rope, authorities said.

-- The Washington Post

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