India defers hanging of Rajiv Gandhi killers

Execution of three, convicted of ex-PM's murder, stayed for two months following appeals by lawyers and politicians.

    The three men were due to be hanged on September 9 after India's president rejected their final mercy pleas [EPA]

    Judges in India have delayed by two months the execution of three men convicted of the 1991-assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

    The three men were due to be hanged on September 9 at a jail in the southern state of Tamil Nadu after India's president rejected their final mercy pleas earlier this month.

    However, a court in the sourthern city of Chennai said on Tuesday that it had "stayed the execution of the capital punishment by eight weeks" after a further round of appeals from lawyers and state politicians who oppose the executions.

    On August 11, India's president Pratibha Patil rejected the mercy petition of the three men who were linked to neighbouring Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which ordered Gandhi's killing.

    A woman suicide bomber blew up Gandhi, who was prime minister of India from 1984 to 1989, at an election rally in Sriperumbudur near Chennai on May 21, 1991.

    Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan and others were charged with criminal conspiracy that led to Gandhi's killing.

    In 1998, all 26 accused in the case - including the three - were sentenced to die by a special trial court.

    In 1999, the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentences of four, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan and Nalini, an Indian Tamil woman married to Murugan who was also convicted in connection with the assassination.

    The death sentence of Nalini was commuted to life imprisonment after her mercy petition was accepted.

    The capital punishment of the others was reduced to varying terms of imprisonment.

    In 2006, the Tamil Tigers expressed "regret" for the murder.

    The death penalty is rare in India. The last execution was in 2004 when a 41-year-old former security guard was hanged for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old schoolgirl.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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