•   Monday, 30 Jan, 2023
Rajiv Gandhi

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

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Convicts are released citing ‘satisfactory conduct’ in prison and the 30 years they served behind bars.

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

Gandhi, 46, was killed by a female suicide bomber at an election 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 apex court allowed the release of the six convicts, citing their “satisfactory conduct” in prison and the fact that they had already served more than 30 years behind bars.

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

“It’s 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 the NDTV channel after her release.

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

Three of the six convicts released on Saturday had initially been condemned 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.

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