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Indian court convicts former Uber driver of rape

Policemen escort driver Shiv Kumar Yadav (3rd R in black jacket) who is accused of a rape outside a court in New Delhi December 8, 2014. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An Indian court on Tuesday convicted a former driver of U.S.-based ride-hailing company Uber Technologies of raping a woman passenger in New Delhi last December, a lawyer involved in the case said.

The attack, in which the woman reported being raped and beaten after hailing a ride with then Uber driver Shiv Kumar Yadav, sparked a nationwide debate around women's safety in the country.

Authorities in New Delhi banned Uber after the incident last year, saying the company violated rules and failed to run proper background checks on its drivers. Uber resumed services later and stepped up its safety procedures.

The Delhi district court hearing the case convicted Yadav of rape, kidnapping and criminal intimidation, Atul Kumar Srivastava, a government lawyer acting for the prosecution, told Reuters.

Yadav faces a maximum of life imprisonment. The court will announce the sentence on Friday.

D.K. Mishra, a defense lawyer, said Yadav's conviction was "totally wrong". The defense plans to appeal after reviewing the judgment, he said.

The woman passenger had also sued Uber in U.S. federal court in January, but later withdrew her suit.

Uber welcomed the court's verdict.

"Sexual assault is a terrible crime and we're pleased he has now been brought to justice," Amit Jain, president of Uber India said in a statement.

"Safety is a priority for Uber and we've made many improvements ... as a result of the lessons we learned from this awful case."

(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty and Aditya Kalra; Editing by Douglas Busvine)