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Court stays release of three convicted in former PM's assassination

Feb. 20, 2014 at 10:01 AM

NEW DELHI, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- India's top court blocked the release Thursday of three people convicted in the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Responding to a request by the national government, the Supreme Court issued a stay against the release of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, whose death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment Tuesday by Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu

The three have been in jail for more than 20 years and on death row since 1998, NDTV reported.

The court will hold its next hearing on March 6.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the state's decision Wednesday to release the men was legally untenable and against all principles of justice. He said the assassination of Gandhi, who was killed by a suicide bomber, was "an attack on the soul of India" and that no government or party "should be soft in our fight against terrorism."

Tamil Nadu said Murugan's wife Nalini, Robert Pious, Jayakumar and Ravichandran could still be freed. Nalini's death sentence had earlier been commuted on humanitarian grounds on the recommendation of Sonia Gandhi.

All seven belonged to the Tamil Tiger separatist group in neighboring Sri Lanka.

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