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India Court Halts Death Sentences

June 7, 1999

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ India’s Supreme Court today stayed the execution of three men and a woman scheduled to die this week for the 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The hanging had been set for Wednesday after the Supreme Court last month confirmed the death sentences imposed by a special court, Press Trust of India reported.

But today, a two-judge bench delayed the execution until after a July 19 hearing on another review of the death sentences. In granting the petition, the court said the review will be heard by the same justices who confirmed the executions, Sujata Manohar and V.N. Khare.

The four convicted conspirators _ S. Nalini, T. Suthendraraja, V. Sriharan and G. Perarivalan _ were among 26 defendants given death sentences last year by the special court in the southern city of Madras after a six-year trial. Suthendraraja and Perarivalan are Sri Lankan Tamils.

In its hearing last month, the Supreme Court overturned the convictions on capital offenses of 19 defendants and commuted the sentences of three others to life imprisonment.

Gandhi was blown up by a suicide bomber who strapped explosives to her waist and mingled with crowds in the southern town of Sriperumbudur during a campaign rally for the 1991 elections.

A commission of inquiry appointed by the government pointed to a conspiracy by Sri Lanka’s Tamil rebels in the assassination. The trial court upheld that view.

The leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran, has been indicted in the case, but he has eluded arrest in the jungles of northern Sri Lanka.

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