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Thursday, October 28, 1999 Published at 14:36 GMT

World: South Asia

Rajiv death sentences upheld

Rajiv Gandhi's coffin is brought back to Delhi

By T N Gopalan in Madras

The governor of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Fatima Biwi, has rejected the clemency petitions from four people who were given death sentences after being convicted for their role in the assassination of the former Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

[ image: Rajiv Gandhi: Assassinated eight years ago]
Rajiv Gandhi: Assassinated eight years ago
Two Sri Lankan Tamils, Murugan and Santhanam, as well as two Tamils from Tamil Nadu, Perarivalan and Nailini, were sentenced to death for plotting to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi, who was killed by a suicide bomber in Sriperumbudur, near Madras, eight years ago.

The four convicts appealed to the state governor who has the power to revoke the death sentences.

The governor's order was delivered to the authorities in Vellore where the four Tamils have been detained.

The counsel for the four convicted people told reporters that they would now appeal to the federal President, K R Narayanan.

Divisions over death penalty

Various political parties in the state remain divided over the mercy petition.

The Chief Minister, M Karunanidhi, has spoken out against the death penalty.

Observers say he is believed to be sympathetic to the Tamil nationalists supporting the Tamil Tigers who have been fighting for a separate homeland in Sri Lanka.

He said that life sentences would give the guilty a chance of reforming themselves.

But the former chief minister and leader of the main opposition party in the state, Jayalalitha, today attacked Mr Karunanidhi for his suggestions.

She said no person in his right mind could ever advocate such a course.

Some Congress leaders have already objected to appeals for clemency while some members of the governing national coalition had argued in favour of clemency as a humanitarian gesture.

All 26 people who stood trial in the case were sentenced to death by a special court, but India's Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence for only four of them.

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