By Matthias Williams
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian police arrested a third man in connection with the gang-rape of a journalist in Mumbai, an official said on Saturday, in a case that has drawn comparisons with an attack in December that led to nationwide protests and a revision of rape laws.
News of Thursday's attack sparked street protests and uproar in parliament and put the spotlight back on women's safety in India, where memories of the rape and murder of a student in New Delhi last December are still fresh.
Many Indians have questioned whether, despite a toughening of rape laws after last year's attack, India is any safer. The latest assault was in the financial capital Mumbai, which is generally considered India's safest city for women.
The 22-year-old victim, a photo journalist, was admitted to hospital where she is in a stable condition. Police have released sketches of the suspects and say they will ask the government to have the case conducted in a fast-track court.
One man was arrested on Friday in connection with the attack, and Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh told reporters a second suspect had been arrested.
"He has admitted that he has done wrong," Singh said, adding that the other suspects may have fled to the city's suburbs.
Police arrested a third suspect later on Saturday, Singh told Reuters via a phone text message, but did not elaborate.
BROKEN BEER BOTTLE
The attack took place shortly before sunset in a former industrial district that is now one of the city's fastest-growing neighborhoods. The woman was at an abandoned textile mill on assignment with a male colleague.
They were separated by the attackers and the woman's colleague was tied up with a belt while she was assaulted.
"In the 21st-century, I am ashamed that a journalist doing her job has to go through something like this," said Bharatkumar Raut, a Mumbai-born lawmaker in the upper house of parliament.
"We used to say that Mumbai is the safest city in India. But the life of our citizens - not just women - is becoming insecure," he told Reuters by phone.
Indian TV news channels and newspapers, citing police sources and statements purportedly made by the victim, have disclosed some details of the assault.
According to the Mumbai daily Mid Day, the attackers threatened to slash the victim with a broken beer bottle. They also threatened to reveal her identity if she reported the incident, it reported.
The Times of India on Saturday quoted a statement by the victim from her hospital bed.
"I want no other woman in this city and country to go through such brutal physical humiliation," she was quoted as saying. "The perpetrators should be punished severely as they have ruined my life."
Reuters was unable to independently verify the statements. Himanshu Roy, Mumbai's joint commissioner of police, declined to comment when contacted by telephone.
The trials of the four men and one juvenile accused of the December attack are expected to conclude within three weeks. Closing arguments in the trial of the four adult suspects started on Thursday.
Following a public outcry over the Delhi attack, India introduced tougher rape laws in March, which include the death penalty for repeat offenders and for those whose victims were left in a "vegetative state".
(Additional reporting by Vipin Das and Shyamantha Asokan; Editing by Robert Birsel and Hugh Lawson)