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Friday, February 3, 2023

Ex-Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi assassination accomplice gets parole

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An Indian court Friday granted a 30-day parole to a woman convicted three decades ago over her role in the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by militants.

Gandhi and 14 others were killed in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu by a female suicide bomber belonging to Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatist group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Nalini Sriharan, an Indian national, was arrested soon after the bombing and found guilty — together with her husband and 25 others — of conspiracy and helping the teenage bomber, Thenmozhi Rajaratnam.

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Her death sentence was commuted on a clemency plea by Rajiv Gandhi’s widow in 2000. Three others are still awaiting execution.

A court in Chennai on Friday suspended Sriharan’s life imprisonment sentence for a month after she filed a plea for a six-month parole to make arrangements for her daughter’s wedding.

Sriharan was pregnant when she was arrested, and delivered the child in prison. Her daughter is a UK national and a doctor.

Rajiv Gandhi — prime minister between 1984 and 1989 — was campaigning for mid-term national elections in 1991 when militants targeted him over his decision to send the Indian army to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka was in the grip of a decades-long armed conflict between the majority Sinhalese government and minority Tamils demanding an independent country for the ethnic group.

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The civil war — which ended in 2009 — killed at least 100,000 people, and the Tamil rebels enjoyed widespread support from their ethnic kin in Tamil Nadu.

Rajiv Gandhi was the son of former PM Indira Gandhi — assassinated in Delhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984 — and the father of Rahul Gandhi, who stepped down this week as head of the opposition Congress party.