Rajiv killers turn political pawns in Tamil Nadu

With 11 days left for the execution of Rajiv Gandhi assassins, DMK and some other parties stepped up their campaign for getting them reprieve.

Chennai: With 11 days left for the execution
of three Rajiv Gandhi assassins, DMK and some other parties
on Monday stepped up their campaign for getting them reprieve
while Chief Minister Jayalalithaa made it clear she has no
power to grant them pardon.

A petition seeking seeking review of the President`s order
rejecting the clemency pleas of Murugan, Santhan and
Perarivalan, facing gallows on September 9, may come up for
hearing before the Madras High Court tomorrow.

Several parts of the state witnessed student protests,
attempt to picket railway stations and rail roko agitations.

Pleading pardon for the three, DMK chief M Karunanidhi
appealed to the Centre to save the three lives and said "Had
young leader Rajiv Gandhi been alive today, that noble man
would have definitely come forward to save the lives of
Santhan, Perarivalan and Murugan, responding to the voice of
true Tamils and in accordance with the golden saying of Anna,
forget and forgive," he said in a statement.

Jayalalithaa, expressing her inability to accept the demand
of political leaders for clemency, quoted a Home Ministry
directive of 1991 which made it clear that when a petition for
grant of pardon in death sentences has earlier been rejected
by the President, it would not be open for the State to invoke
Article 161 to commute the death sentence.

The Chief Minister decried Karunanidhi seeking her
intervention noting that in 2000 he had recommended to the
Governor to reject the mercy plea of the three and commutation
of death sentence to Nalini to life.

The DMK patriarch had last week urged Congress President
Sonia Gandhi to intervene on the issue, saying appeals by
Tamils across the world needed to be considered in the spirit
of "forget and forgive".

PMK founder S Ramadoss and MDMK leader Vaiko demanded that
capital punishment to the three be commuted to life.

However, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy said
there should be no interference in the decision to hang the

Noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani said, "it is the right of the
person not be be punished more than what the law allows." In
this case, the additional punishment is agony and suffering
of people who are sentenced to be hanged and every day for
them is a day of death, he said.

Senior counsel V Chandrasekharan, who had earlier argued
the case for the three in the Madras High Court, made a
mention before it about his intention to challenge the
Presidential order, rejecting the clemency of the three.

The judge N Paul Vasantkumar asked the lawyer to file the
petition, which could be taken up for hearing tomorrow.

Chandrasekharan has contended that the three had already
served 20 years in prison and deserved relief. He also
questioned the delay of 11 years in rejecting the mercy plea.

Students and human rights activists staged demonstrations
in Coimbatore, Thanjavur and Madurai, Kancheepuram and Chennai
demanding abolition of capital punishment and release of the

Police in Madurai said there were three attempts by
supporters of outlawed LTTE to set themselves ablaze.

Mothers of Murugan and Perarivalan had appealed to
Jayalalithaa to save the lives of their sons.

Harithra, daughter of Murugan and Nalini, another accused
whose death sentence was commuted to life, also made a similar
plea to Jayalalithaa and Sonia Gandhi. She is awaiting visa
clearance to meet her father.

Harithra is pursuing her higher studies in London.


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