Russian outrage at Goa rape probe

Other News Materials 18 December 2009 12:22 (UTC +04:00)

Russia has voiced strong concerns for the safety of its citizens in the Indian resort state of Goa, slamming police for botching a probe into the alleged rape of one of its nationals, AFP reported.

In a strongly worded letter, Moscow's Consul General in Mumbai, Alexander Mantytsky, said they were worried about the "criminal situation in Goa", raising fears it could lead to more attacks on women.

The comments came amid widespread outrage at suggestions from one lawmaker in India's parliament that the 25-year-old alleged victim -- and a British girl whose body was found in the resort in 2008 -- somehow invited their fate.

Mantytsky told Goa Chief Minister Digamar Kamat in a letter dated December 14: "We would be happy to inform our citizens not to remain outside after 10 o'clock, if you suppose that it would assist in their security."

Goa is as famous for its sandy beaches as its reputation for sex, drink and drugs in straightlaced India, but has seen a rash of violent crime since last year, including rape and murder, according to police figures.

Increasing numbers of Russians come to the former Portuguese colony every year, making up about 40,000 of the tiny state's 400,000 annual foreign visitors.

But a number of crimes against Russian women "has caused a great public concern in our country", Mantytsky wrote in the letter, a copy of which was seen by AFP.

The Russian woman was allegedly raped by a local businessman with political connections. He denies attacking the woman in his car after they had dinner earlier this month. He has since gone missing.

In May, the mutilated body of a 19-year-old Russian woman was found near an isolated set of railway tracks in north Goa, some 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the state capital, Panaji.

That followed the discovery in February, 2008 of the partially-clothed body of Scarlett Keeling, 15, on a north Goa beach. She was found to have taken a cocktail of drink and drugs before she died.

The British teenager's mother forced police to open a murder investigation after they initially dismissed the death as accidental drowning. She also accused officers of trying to protect powerful drugs gangs.

Mantytsky's letter talks of Russian officials' "astonishment" that police -- under fire locally for their handling of other probes, particularly those involving high-profile figures -- botched the latest rape investigation.

The alleged victim was not given a medical test for several days, her alleged attacker's car was not forensically examined and his clothes were not kept, the diplomat charged.

"During this time, all possibility to gather evidence was destroyed," he added.

Goa home minister Ravi Naik said Thursday police were looking into whether there were any shortcomings in procedures, while Kamat has ordered a detailed report on the case from the state police chief.

Proposals have also been made for a special tourist security force to combat concern over crimes against visitors.

On Tuesday, Goa lawmaker Shantaram Naik, from the ruling Congress arty, appeared to question the circumstances of the latest case, Indian media said.

"While rape is the most heinous crime... an alleged rape of a lady who moves with strangers for days even beyond middle of the night is to be treated on different footings," he was reported as saying.

He added: "The Scarlett case spoiled Goa's name in the past, although the young lady herself invited all the alleged offences against her, ultimately resulting in her tragic death in the middle of the night."

The general secretary of the All India Democratic Women's Association, Sudha Sundaraman, called Naik's remarks "totally outrageous" but said such views were commonplace and needed to be tackled.

"It's widely prevalent. We find that even amongst police, large sections amongst the police, there is this mindset that the woman invited this kind of violence. This is extremely unfortunate and can't be tolerated," she told AFP.