Killers of ex-Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi released after court order | News

Prisoners are released on the grounds of ‘satisfactory behavior’ and 30 years behind bars.

The last conspirators arrested for the 1991 assassination of India’s former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi were released from prison a day after the country’s Supreme Court ruled.

Gandhi, 46, was killed by a female suicide bomber at an election rally organized by the Sri Lankan armed separatist group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

India’s top court has allowed the release of six convicts, citing their “satisfactory conduct” in prison and the fact that they have already spent more than 30 years behind bars.

Three of the six – Nalini Sriharan, her husband Murugan and Santhan – were released on Saturday from two jails in Vellore, about 140 km (87 miles) from the regional capital Chennai, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

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“This is a new life with my husband and daughter. I thank Tamils ​​for supporting me for more than 30 years. I thank both the state and central governments,” Sriharan told NDTV after his release.

Local media said the others – Robert Pais, Jaikumar and Ravichandran – were released from jails in Chennai and Madurai in the same state.

Three of the six convicts released on Saturday were originally sentenced to death before their sentences were commuted.

In 1984, Gandhi became the youngest Prime Minister of India after his mother and predecessor Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards.

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rajiv gandhi-file photo
Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi gives a speech on May 16, 1991 [File: AFP]

The Gandhi dynasty has dominated the Congress Party, which has dominated Indian politics for decades, and Rajiv’s widow Sonia remains the most powerful figure in the organisation, while their son Rahul, 52, is seen as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s main challenger.

Last month, the party elected 80-year-old former minister Mallikarjun Kharge as its first non-Gandhi president in 24 years to reverse an electoral slump.

Rajiv’s assassination was seen as a response to his move to send Indian forces to Sri Lanka in 1987 to disarm Tamil rebels. India lost more than 1,000 men against the well-entrenched rebels before withdrawing its troops.

The Congress Party condemned the court order as “totally unacceptable” and “totally wrong”.

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“It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court has not acted in the spirit of India in this matter,” senior party member Jairam Ramesh tweeted.

India has its own Tamil population and Tamil Nadu state governments have repeatedly demanded the release of convicts.

Earlier this year, the court freed AGPerarivala, another convict involved in the conspiracy and earlier facing the death penalty, with a hug from state chief minister MK Stalin, a key Congress ally, after his release.

Gandhi’s son talks about how he and his sister Priyanka have forgiven their father’s killers over the years.

The Indian Express newspaper quoted Rahul in 2018 as saying, “We were very upset and hurt and quite angry for many years.” But he said, “actually, absolutely.”


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