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Thursday, 18 November, 1999, 17:06 GMT
Gandhi pleads for husband's killer
Crowds of shocked Indians turned out for the funeral of Rajiv Gandhi

Indian opposition leader, Sonia Gandhi, has asked for clemency to be shown to one of four people convicted for assassinating her husband, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

During a meeting with Indian President KR Narayanan, Mrs Gandhi asked him to commute the death sentence placed on the only woman convicted of killing her husband in 1991.

Mohini Giri, the head of a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation, told the BBC that Mrs Gandhi had made the appeal because the woman, S Nalini, is the mother of a young child.

A file photo of Nalini - the only woman among the four
It is believed that Mrs Gandhi asked for the death sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment.

Ms Nalini, along with three men, was sentenced to death last year for Mr Gandhi's assassination.

Following several failed clemency appeals, the execution was scheduled for 5 November, but it was postponed following a fresh appeal which is currently under review in the southern city of Madras.

Controversy

Earlier, the governor of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Fatima Beevi, rejected clemency petitions from the four people sentenced for the assassination.

Rajiv Gandhi: Assassinated eight years ago
The issue has aroused debate in India, with political parties divided over the petitions.

Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister, Mr Karunanidhi, has spoken out against the death penalty, saying a life sentence would give the guilty a chance to reform.

But his comments were attacked by opposition parties which want the sentence carried out.

Day that shocked India

Rajiv Gandhi was killed at a campaign rally in May 1991, by a suspected female Tamil Tiger suicide bomber who had strapped explosives to her waist.

The assassination shocked India and an immediate investigation was launched.


Forty others were accused in the case and 26 prosecuted. But 19 of them were subsequently cleared and three awarded life sentences, leaving four people facing death sentences.
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