TITLE=INDIA - GANDHI ASSASSINATION
INTRO: India's Supreme Court has upheld the death
sentences of four Tamil rebels convicted of
assassinating former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv
Gandhi. As Pamela D'souza reports from New Delhi, the
Supreme Court had earlier set aside death sentences
for 22 others convicted in the case.
Text: Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a Tamil Tiger
suicide bomber during his re-election campaign for
prime minister in southern India in 1991. Twenty-six
people were tried, convicted and sentenced to death in
the case. However, India's Supreme Court recently set
aside death sentences for 22 of the 26 convicted,
changing their sentences to life in prison.
The court upheld death sentences for the four others,
including one woman. Human rights groups have
criticized the decision because two of the convicted
assassins are married to each other and have a child.
Mr. Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomber while
campaigning in Sriperumbudur in southern Tamil Nadu.
A government inquiry investigating the murder blamed
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, an extremist
group fighting for an independent homeland in northern
and eastern Sri Lanka. When he was prime minister in
1989, Rajiv Gandhi sent an Indian peacekeeping force
to Sri Lanka to help the government defeat Tamil
rebels. The leader of the Tamil rebels, Vellupillai
Prabhakaran, has also been indicted in the
assassination, but has never been caught.
// OPT //
After a six-year trial, a special court in Madras
approved the death sentences last year. The accused
were scheduled to hang in June but two days before
their execution, India's Supreme Court agreed to hear
their appeal. Friday's ruling upholding the planned
execution of four of the 26 came without comment.
Rajiv Gandhi was the second member of the Nehru Gandhi
family to be assassinated. His mother, Prime Minister
Indira Gandhi, was killed by her bodyguards in 1984.
// END OPT//
No execution date has yet been set for the four death
row inmates. Only the president of India has the
authority to commute their sentences. (Signed)
08-Oct-1999 09:07 AM EDT (08-Oct-1999 1307 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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