Celebrations in Tamil Nadu as Rajiv killers' hanging stayed

A huge crowd gathered outside the high court Tuesday morning to await the ruling of the two-judge bench hearing the petitions filed by the three men. The crowd's morale got a boost when the news reached them that the state assembly had passed a resolution urging President Pratibha Patil to commute the death sentences of Murugan alias Sriharan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu to life imprisonment.

The news was celebrated with joyous cries and bursting of crackers. The crowd burst out with joy when they heard that the bench, after hearing lawyer Ram Jethmalani's argument for around 40 minutes, ordered an interim stay on the hanging by eight weeks and issued notices to the central and the state government.

The slogan "Tamil Vazga, Tamil Vazga!" rent the air.  When MDMK general secretary Vaiko and Jethmalani came out of the court, the crowd shouted slogans in their praise.

Arputhammal, the mother of Perarivalan, told reporters that all the three convicts were innocent. "The court's decision and the resolution in the state assembly gives me new hope. I had lost hope of seeing my son alive. I am thankful to the judiciary, the assembly and the people who came to support my son," she said.

In other parts of the state where protests were being held against the death sentence for the trio, similar celebrations were held. In Chennai, the mood at the venue where three female advocates were fasting turned upbeat on hearing the high court order. Members of Tamil outfits expressed their joy at the court's decision.

"The assembly resolution and the court decision gives us renewed hope that innocent lives will not be snuffed out," activist N.Selvaraj told reporters.
Pro-Tamil outfit members went out in procession around the court demanding the release of the three condemned prisoners.

President Patil had Aug 11 rejected the mercy petitions of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan - all linked to the LTTE and sentenced to death for their involvement in Gandhi's 1991 assassination. Rajiv Gandhi, who was prime minister 1984-89, was killed by suicide bomber Dhanu at an election rally in Sriperumbudur near Chennai May 21. Fourteen other people also lost their lives in the blast.

The trio moved the high court Monday, pleading commutation of their death sentence.

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