Court commutes 3 death sentences to life in Rajiv Gandhi killing
India's Supreme Court yesterday commuted death sentences to life in prison for three men convicted of playing minor roles in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The three have served more than 20 years on death row in Vellore Prison, in southern Tamil Nadu state.
They denied knowing anything about the plot to kill Gandhi as he was campaigning in May 1991 for a return to the prime ministerial office.
He was killed along with 17 others, including the female suicide assassin, as she greeted him with a garland of sandalwood beads and a bomb strapped to her chest during a rally in India's Tamil Nadu state.
The attack - orchestrated by Tamil Tiger rebels in neighbouring Sri Lanka - horrified the nation and virtually ended Indian support for the rebels' in their decades-long fight for an ethnic Tamil homeland. All of the assassination's masterminds were killed during or after the attack.
The three men on death row, however, were among 26 convicted of playing minor roles in the plot. Indian national Arivu Perarivalan was found guilty of buying a 9-volt battery used in the bomb, while Sri Lankans Murugan and Santhan - who use only one name - acknowledged they were Tamil Tigers rebels but only pawns in a larger game they barely understood.