Killer of ex-Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi released after court order | news

Convicts are released citing “satisfactory conduct” in prison and the 30 years they spent behind bars.

The last of the co-conspirators jailed in the 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were released from prison a day after an order from the country’s Supreme Court.

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

India’s top court allowed the six convicts to be released, citing their “satisfactory conduct” in prison and the fact that they had 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 prisons in Vellore, some 140 km (87 miles) from the regional capital Chennai, according to a local AFP journalist.

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

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

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

Gandhi became India’s youngest prime minister after his mother and predecessor, Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her bodyguards in 1984.

Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi delivers a speech on May 16, 1991 [File: AFP]

The Gandhi dynasty heads the Congress party that dominated Indian politics for decades, and Rajiv’s widow Sonia remains the organization’s most powerful figure, while her son Rahul, 52, is said to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biggest challenger.

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

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

The Congress party has condemned the court’s decision as “completely unacceptable” and “completely wrong”.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the Supreme Court has not acted in accordance with the spirit of India on this matter,” the party said, tweeting a statement from senior member Jairam Ramesh.

India itself has a sizeable Tamil population and state governments in Tamil Nadu have repeatedly called for the release of those convicted.

Earlier this year, the court freed AG Perarivalan, another convict involved in the assassination who previously faced execution, and the state’s prime minister, MK Stalin, a key congressional ally, gave him a hug after his release.

Gandhi’s son has spoken over the years about how he and his sister Priyanka had forgiven their father’s killers.

“We were very upset and hurt and for many years we were quite angry,” the Indian Express newspaper quoted Rahul in 2018. But they’ve since forgiven them, he said, “actually completely.”

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