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Rajiv Gandhi convicts state after release: "see us as victims, not killers"

Rajiv Gandhi convicts state after release: see us as victims, not killers

Madurai: One of the six prisoners in the murder of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi who were freed on Saturday, RP Ravichandran, urged that the people of north India should view them as "victims instead of terrorists or killers."

He claimed that they will be viewed as "innocents" with time.

After being released from Madurai Central Prison, Ravichandran spoke with ANI and said, "The people of north India should see us as victims instead of terrorists or killers. Time and power determine who is a terrorist or a freedom fighter but time will judge us as innocent, even if we bear the blame for being terrorists."

Like their fellow prisoner AG Perarivalan, Nalini and Ravichandran had petitioned the highest court for freedom from custody, ANI reported.

In order to free AG Perarivalan, one of the seven defendants in the assassination case, the Supreme Court had to invoke its extraordinary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution on May 18.

One of the six defendants in the case, Nalini Sriharan, previously thanked the Tamil Nadu and central governments for providing "help" to her throughout her 32-year sentence and stated her desire to be with her family.

Following a ruling by the Supreme Court on Friday, Sriharan—the longest-serving female prisoner receiving a life sentence in the nation—was freed from the Vellore Prison on Saturday, freeing all six of the case's defendants, including RP Ravichandran.

She praised the Tamil Nadu residents who, according to her, had supported her for 32 years as she was being released from prison.

When asked about her future intentions, including whether she would choose to live in India or move abroad, Nalini told ANI that she has been waiting for her family members for a long time and that she is eager to spend time with them.

"I want to be with my family. All members of my family have been waiting for such a long time. I want to thank the State and Central govt. They helped us a lot during this period," she said.

Nalini said that she had no plans to see any members of the Gandhi family after being freed, but she did add that she will follow "wherever my husband goes."

"I will go wherever my husband goes. We were separated for 32 years. Our family kept waiting for us... I am not planning to meet anyone from the Gandhi family. We are under the case. There is no possibility of me meeting them. I want to thank the State and Central governments. I thank the state government for giving me parole, so I could go to the Supreme Court and try my level best," she said.

Regarding the decision made by the two-judge panel of Justices BR Gavai and BV Nagarathna, who took into account the inmates' excellent behaviour, she commented that the judges had studied their cases and knew "what is correct and what is wrong."

"Our judges know everything. They have studied our case. They know what is wrong and what is correct and what they can do, they have done it," she said.

The Tamil Nadu government had previously advised the early release of prisoners, claiming that the Governor must heed its assistance and recommendations for the remission of their life sentences from 2018.

The Supreme Court's decision to release six prisoners, including Nalini Sriharan of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, was praised on Friday by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin.

"I welcome the Supreme Court Verdict on the release of six persons," Stalin said in a tweet on Friday.

"This judgment of the Supreme Court is proof that the decisions of the government elected by the people should not be shelved by the governors in the appointed positions," he said.

The murder of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi resulted in life sentences for Nalini Sriharan and five other convicts. Due to their good behaviour while they were in custody, the top court released them.

At a public event in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, on May 21, 1991, a female suicide bomber from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) assassinated Rajiv Gandhi.

Due to their involvement in the murder, the seven prisoners received death sentences. They included Robert Payas, AG Perarivalan, Jayakumar, Santhan, Murugan, Nalini Sriharan, and RP Ravichandran.

Nalini Sriharan's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2000. Later in 2014, the sentences of the other six convicts were also reduced, and that same year, J. Jayalalitha, who was then Tamil Nadu's chief minister, recommended the release of all seven of the case's convicts.

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