- Five people were arrested after two girls were found dead, hanging from a tree
- All five of the accused have been granted bail, since charges have not been filed
- Police said an autopsy showed the girls had been raped
- But forensic reports from federal investigators suggest they were not raped
Five people accused in the hanging of two girls in India have been granted bail as authorities have not charged them, their attorneys said Friday.
The five, including two police officers, were arrested after the girls were left hanging from a mango tree in a remote village in Budaun district on May 27. The girls were cousins, ages 14 and 16.
The teens' families filed a complaint accusing three brothers of rape and murder. Police said an autopsy confirmed the girls had been raped and strangled.
But forensic reports commissioned by federal investigators later said the girls were not raped.
"My clients were accused of helping in the gang rape and hanging of the girls, but CBI (the Central Bureau of Investigation) did not file charge, and no evidence of such a gravity was provided to prove the alleged crime," said Tarit Mathur, an attorney for the two police officers accused.
The other three accused in the hanging were also granted bail as no charges had been filed, their attorney Jawahar Singh Yadav said.
But Kanchan Prasad, a spokeswoman for the Central Bureau of Investigation, said the case is still under investigation.
A grisly scene
A photo from the northern Uttar Pradesh state shows the body of one girl, dressed in a green tunic and pants, hanging from the tree. A large group of people, many of them young children, were gathered around the grisly scene.
The CBI sent samples obtained by police to a special DNA fingerprinting facility in southern India for re-examination after it took over the case, an official source told CNN last week.
Test results "didn't show the girls were sexually assaulted," said the CBI source, who requested anonymity. "There were also several discrepancies in the post-mortem report."
With the latest evidence appearing to rule out rape, investigators dropped plans to file charges against five people.
"However, we are not giving them clean chit either," Prasad said last week.
Under Indian law, suspects in custody for serious crimes become eligible to apply for bail if formal charges are not filed against them in the trial court within 90 days.
The case caused widespread revulsion in India and beyond, reminding people about the brutal gang rape of a girl on a public bus in Delhi in December 2012.
Back then, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was traveling home from a movie with a male friend when at least five other men dragged her to the back of the bus and then beat up her friend.
The men took turns raping the woman as the bus drove around the city for almost an hour, police said at the time. The two friends were then dumped by the side of the road, and the young woman later died from her injuries.
That incident energized activists and women generally, with government officials promising action to ensure that girls and women feel safe.