Indian hanged girls' families question probe

Villagers collect near tree where the girls were found in Badaun
Image caption Angry villagers protested at the tree where the girls were found hanged in Badaun district

The families of two teenage girls found hanging from a tree in India last year have challenged the investigators' report that they took their own lives and were not gang-raped and murdered.

The girls' parents have demanded further investigation in the case.

The investigators said the girls killed themselves "out of shame" after a villager spotted one of the sisters with a village boy.

But rights groups and the families say many unanswered questions remain.

They have accused the federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of "trying to fudge the case and save the accused".

The case sparked global outrage after initial reports said the girls were gang-raped and murdered by a group of men from the same village.

On Thursday, the girls' families filed a "protest petition" in a local court in Badaun town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The judge has decided to hear the case on 11 March.

"The family was not convinced with the conclusion that girls committed suicide. When we saw the closure report it became apparent that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) wanted to wash its hands off the case and has done a shoddy investigation," the families' lawyer Gyan Singh told BBC Hindi.

CBI version

The lower-caste cousins, thought to have been 14 and 15, were found hanged from a mango tree on 28 May.

A local post-mortem examination initially confirmed multiple sexual assaults and death due to hanging.

But tests conducted since then on vaginal swabs and the girls' clothing have concluded the girls were not sexually assaulted, the CBI said.

Three men arrested in connection with the case and two policemen accused of "dereliction of duty" were freed on bail in September.

In its report to the court in December, the CBI accused the families of filing a false complaint of rape and murder and requested that the case be closed.

The report said the elder girl had "an intimate relationship" with one of the three men and her younger cousin was "facilitating the relationship".

The CBI, which studied "around 40 scientific reports" and "questioned over 200 people", believes the girls killed themselves out of shame after they were found by a neighbour and because they were afraid of facing their families.