Killers of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi freed after court order | New

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

The last co-conspirators imprisoned for the 1991 assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi have been released from prison, the day after an order by the country’s Supreme Court.

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

India’s top court has authorized the release of the six convicts, 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, about 140 km (87 miles) from the regional capital Chennai, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

“It’s a new life with my husband and my daughter. I thank the Tamils ​​for supporting me for over 30 years. I thank both the state and the central government,” Sriharan told NDTV after his 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 had first been 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, which has dominated Indian politics for decades, and Rajiv’s widow Sonia remains the organisation’s most powerful figure, while their son Rahul, 52, is considered the main challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Last month, the party elected 80-year-old former minister Mallikarjun Kharge as its first president in 24 years who was not a Gandhi, in a bid to reverse its electoral decline.

Rajiv’s murder was seen as a response to his decision to send Indian forces to Sri Lanka in 1987 to disarm Tamil rebels. India lost over 1,000 men to the entrenched rebels before withdrawing its troops.

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

“It is very regrettable that the Supreme Court did not act in accordance with the spirit of India on this matter,” the party said, tweeting a statement from senior member Jairam Ramesh.

India has its own large Tamil population and state governments in Tamil Nadu have repeatedly called for the release of convicts.

Earlier this year, the court freed AG Perarivalan, another convict involved in the assassination who had already been executed, with chief state minister MK Stalin, a key congressional ally, hugging him. after his release.

Over the years, Gandhi’s son has told how he and his sister Priyanka forgave their father’s killers.

“We were very upset and hurt and for many years we were quite angry,” Indian Express quoted Rahul as saying in 2018. But they had since forgiven them, he said, “in fact, completely “.

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