Three men have been sentenced to life in prison for the rape, torture, and murder of an 8-year-old girl that shocked India last year. Eight Hindu men were charged in the slaying of the girl, who was a member of a Muslim tribe, and all pleaded not guilty. In addition to the three jailed for life, three police officers were convicted of destroying evidence and sentenced to five years, one was acquitted, and a minor is set to be tried separately. Investigators said the men kidnapped the child, kept her confined and sedated for several days while raping and torturing her, and finally killing her—all as part of a plan to scare her tribe away from the area, the BBC reports. Her body was found in a forest near Kathua city nearly three weeks after she went missing. The crime, and the men's arrests, heightened religious tensions in India, CNN reports.
A former government official was accused of hatching the plot along with four police officers, his son, his juvenile nephew, and a friend. The ex-official, his friend, and one officer were given life sentences, while the ex-official's son was acquitted. The girl's family could not afford to travel to hear the verdict, and her mother cried upon being told about it by a BBC reporter. "I have always believed in justice and God gave me strength to fight for it," she said. The murder sparked outrage in India, and prompted a new law in the country introducing the death penalty for anyone convicted of raping a child under the age of 12, should the judge in the case wish to apply it. The Times of India reports that despite the verdict, rapes and murders of young girls continue to shock India. (Three teens were raped and burned alive in the country in the span of one week.)