|Tamil killers of Rajiv Gandhi blocked from jail release
India's top court blocked the release of three of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's killers belonging to a Tamil terrorist group, after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh denounced moves to free them.
They were among seven Tamil terrorists who had been due to walk free from prison by this weekend after the chief minister of Tamil Nadu state on Wednesday ordered their release, sparking political uproar.
Singh rejected any right to freedom, saying Gandhi's 1991 assassination by a female Tamil suicide bomber was an attack on the nation's soul.
“The assassination of Shri [honorific] Rajiv Gandhi was an attack on the soul of India,'' Singh said in a statement today. “No government or party should be soft in our fight against terrorism,'' he added.
“The release of the killers of a former Prime Minister of India and our great leader, as well as several other innocent Indians, would be contrary to all principles of justice.''
After agreeing to an urgent hearing, a Supreme Court bench ordered the Tamil Nadu government to maintain the “status quo'' for three of the seven until it had a chance to examine the issue thoroughly.
The bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam said although Tamil Nadu in the country's south had the right to release the prisoners, it was concerned about “procedural lapses.''
The court said the Congress-led national government could file a fresh petition for the remaining four who are serving life sentences, although it was unclear if this could halt their release by the weekend.
Rajiv Gandhi, whose widow Sonia is now president of Singh's Congress party, was targeted by Tamil Tiger terrorist of Sri Lanka while he was campaigning in the southern state in May 1991 before an election.
His killing was seen as retaliation for a 1987 Indian government pact with Sri Lanka to disarm the Tamil guerrillas. India later withdraw its troops deployed to the island after losing 1,200 at the hands of the rebels.