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Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 13:40 GMT
Bandit insists on prisoner releases
Veerappan with Gopal
Several attempts have been made to negotiate a release
The bandit who kidnapped Indian film idol Rajkumar has repeated demands for the release of his jailed associates, according to a hostage who has been freed.

Govindraju at news conference
SA Govindraju: Freed on health grounds
Veerappan freed SA Govindraju, Rajkumar's son-in-law, on health grounds late on Monday.

Another hostage escaped last month.

Mr Govindraju told journalists in Bangalore that the bandit would not back down on his demand for the release of his jailed associates.

"Veerappan is still insisting on the release of 51 prisoners and five extremists," he said.

Veerappan, who has been holding Rajkumar captive in southern India for 10 weeks, has made a series of demands including his comrades' release.

Court order

The state government's of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which have been negotiating Rajkumar's release, had initially accepted Veerappan's terms.

Rajkumar in captivity
Rajkumar (centre) has been held for 10 weeks
But they received a setback when the Supreme Court barred the move.

The court was due to deliver a verdict in the matter on Tuesday but has now delayed its judgement by a day.

Rajkumar is being held in a remote hideout deep in a forest straddling the two southern states.

Mr Govindraju said the hostages had been moved around frequently to avoid being detected.

Although there have been calls for police action, Rajkumar's son Shivraj cautioned against any such move.

"We cannot risk the life of my father. Both the governments must sit and talk. What decisions they take must be favourable to us," he said.

Veerappan is one of India's most wanted men.

He is charged with murdering more than 100 people and is wanted for elephant poaching and sandalwood smuggling.

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See also:

03 Oct 00 | South Asia
Kidnap crisis talks in Karnataka
29 Sep 00 | South Asia
Rajkumar 'could be free soon'
19 Sep 00 | South Asia
Legal delay in Rajkumar case
14 Aug 00 | South Asia
Film star's family's plea to fans
31 Jul 00 | South Asia
A ruthless and daring bandit
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