Page last updated at 06:40 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 07:40 UK

Rajiv Gandhi assassin begins fast

Nalini's death sentence was commuted to a life term.

A woman convicted over the assassination of Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi has begun an "indefinite" fast to demand her early release from jail.

Nalini Sriharan, who is in a prison in Tamil Nadu state, says she has been eligible for early release since 2005.

Rajiv Gandhi was killed by a suicide bomb at an election rally in May 1991. India has always blamed the attack on Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels.

Sriharan was convicted for being part of the assassination squad.

She was one of four people initially given a death sentence, for being part of the plot to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi.

At least 14 other people - including the suicide bomber - were also killed in the attack.

Sriharan's sentence was commuted to a life term, following a plea for clemency by Rajiv Gandhi's widow and Congress Party president, Sonia Gandhi.

She has served more than 18 years in Vellore prison. She claims she is only required to serve 14 years in prison before being entitled to premature release under Indian laws.

Sriharan began her "indefinite" fast on Monday morning, demanding that an advisory board to decide on her release be set up as soon as possible.

In 2006, the Tamil Tiger rebels expressed "regret" for the murder of Rajiv Gandhi in a move which correspondents say was a realisation by the rebels that the assassination was a huge mistake.

Sriharan also went on hunger strike in 2006 because she wanted her daughter, who lives in Sri Lanka, to be given a visa to visit her in India.

Last year, Priyanka Gandhi, daughter of the slain prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, met Sriharan in prison.

"I don't believe in anger or violence and I refuse to let it overpower me. Meeting Nalini (Sriharan) was my way of coming to terms with my father's death," Ms Gandhi said after the meeting.

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