One of the men on trial for the fatal gang rape of a student on a bus in India has been beaten and poisoned by prison inmates and is unconscious in hospital, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Prison authorities denied any mistreatment of Vinay Sharma, who has been at New Delhi's Tihar Jail since he was arrested on suspicion of attack on the woman in December that stunned India and brought thousands of protesters onto the streets.
One of Sharma's co-accused, Ram Singh, the alleged ringleader, was found hanged from a ceiling grille inside his cell in March. Police described his death as suicide although a judicial inquiry is pending.
Sharma's lawyer, A.P. Singh, accused inmates of "beating him on the chest" and poisoning his food, and said he was admitted to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital on Tuesday after being treated at another city hospital since Sunday.
"Vinay was beaten by four or five fellow inmates inside the jail premises," he told Reuters, adding he was in an unconscious state.
Sunil Gupta, a spokesman for Tihar Jail, said Sharma was being treated in a city hospital for a fever.
"There was no such beating of Vinay to my knowledge. All the allegations are false," he said.
Police arrested Sharma and Singh, along with three other adult men and a teenage boy, on charges of raping the 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a moving bus and fiercely beating her and her male friend on December 16.
The woman died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital two weeks after the assault, which enraged Indians, who protested in their thousands for days to demand better law enforcement to fight gender crimes.
The city court where Sharma has stood trial since early this year asked jail authorities and doctors on Wednesday to file reports on his health on Thursday.
Sharma was falsely implicated in the case, his lawyer said at the start of the trial.