Sri Lankan men involved in Rajiv Gandhi's death deported from India

Convicted trio were repatriated to their home country after being granted early release by the Supreme Court

Robert Payas, who was convicted for his involvement in the assassination case of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and was released in 2022, is escorted by police to apply for a passport at the Sri Lankan deputy high commission, in Chennai. AFP
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Three Sri Lankan men convicted in the assassination of India’s former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were deported to the capital Colombo on Wednesday following a repatriation order by New Delhi.

The men, Robert Payas, Murugan and Jayakumar were among six convicts who were granted early release by the Supreme Court in 2022 for their “good conduct”. They had spent more than 23 years in jail.

They were recently issued travel documents by their home country.

The three were taken by police to Chennai International Airport in the southern state of Tamil Nadu from a special camp in Tiruchirappalli city where they were kept after their release from jail.

India's Supreme Court had commuted the death sentence of Indian citizen Nalini Sriharan, Murugan’s wife who was also convicted in the case, to life imprisonment in 2000 on the consideration that she has a daughter.

She accompanied her husband to the airport

Mr Gandhi, India’s Prime Minister between 1984 and 1989, was assassinated by Tamil rebels in 1991 over the signing of a “peace agreement” with Colombo and sending Indian troops to the island nation in 1987 to end the ethnic conflict between the Sri Lankan government and Tamils who were demanding a separate nation.

The 47-year-old politician was a member of the Indian National Congress, and was campaigning for the national elections in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991, when he was killed in a suicide bomb attack by the Sri Lankan separatist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

A special anti-terrorist court sentenced 26 people to death in January 1998.

A year later, the Supreme Court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts: AG Perarivalan, Murugan, Nalini Sriharan and Suthendraraja and handed life sentences to Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran while freeing 19 others.

Besides Nalini Sriharan’s commuted sentence in 2000, the Supreme Court commuted the three other death sentences to life in 2014.

The four had appealed for a mercy petition in 2001, which was rejected by then-president Pratibha Patil in 2011. They had also appealed to several courts for reprieve.

AG Perarivalan, who was 19 when he was arrested after he confessed to buying batteries used in the improvised explosive device that killed Mr Gandhi, was freed in May 2022.

The others were released in November the same year.

Updated: April 03, 2024, 12:24 PM