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India’s top court orders release of six people convicted of killing former PM Rajiv Gandhi

<i>K M Kishan/Reuters</i><br/>On November 11
K M Kishan/Reuters
On November 11

By Rhea Mogul and Swati Gupta, CNN

India’s top court on Friday ordered the release of six people convicted of killing the country’s former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, 31 years after their imprisonment.

The Supreme Court released Nalini Sriharan, the only woman convicted in the case, and five men, according to Anand Landge, the lawyer for the petitioners.

They were arrested a few weeks after Gandhi was assassinated in a suicide bomb attack on May 21, 1991, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The attack was blamed on separatist rebels fighting for a Tamil state in Sri Lanka. Gandhi’s killing was seen as retaliation for his decision to send Indian troops into Sri Lanka in 1987 to enforce a peace accord to end the island nation’s civil war.

Over the years, various Tamil Nadu governments have requested the release of those found guilty over the killing.

In May, the Supreme Court ordered the release of A. G. Perarivalan, another man convicted in the case.

Perarivalan, who was 19 years old at the time of the attack, was accused of buying batteries for the bomb. He was convicted of criminal conspiracy to commit murder, among other charges.

Known as the “unwilling” prime minister who never wanted the job, Gandhi became India’s youngest leader at the age of 40 after his mother and former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was shot dead by her bodyguards.

But he served less than a decade, losing the 1989 general election following a corruption scandal, and was assassinated two years later.

During his tenure, he signed peace accords with insurgent groups in states where religious tensions were high, and is credited for developing India’s science and technology sectors, giving him the moniker “Father of Information and Technology.”

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