An Indian court has sentenced to life imprisonment three men found guilty of the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir state.
Three others were given five years in jail for destruction of evidence.
The body of the girl belonging to a Muslim nomadic community was found with injury marks in a forest near Kathua city in January 2018.
She was kept captive in a temple in the Kathua region for over four days, sedated, repeatedly raped, battered and strangled to death, according to the prosecution.
Seven men stood trial in the case, including a local priest and policemen belong to the Hindu community.
The incident sparked religious tension in the insurgency-torn state. The Supreme Court shifted the trial from Kathua to Pathankot in neighbouring Punjab state to ensure the safety of witnesses and a fair trial.
The fast-track court in Pathankot city found six men guilty. One of the accused was acquitted.
Three policemen, who were accused of taking bribes for sabotaging the case, were found guilty of destruction of evidence.
“The girl and her family got justice today. We are satisfied by the judgment,” prosecution lawyer M Farooqi said outside the court.
“We will appeal against the verdict in the Punjab and Haryana High Court,” said Mohan Lal, lawyer for Sanjhi Ram.
The case had made headlines when radical Hindu groups held protests demanding the release of the accused, and lawyers in Kathua tried to prevent the framing of charges against them.
Jammu and Kashmir is India’s only Muslim majority state, but the Muslims are largely concentrated in the Kashmir valley region, while the Jammu region, where Kathua is located, is predominantly Hindu.
There has been growing scrutiny towards sexual violence in India since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus sparked massive outrage and international condemnation.