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CHENNAI: After a gap of more than 33 years, the freed convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case – V Sriharan alias Murugan, Robert Payas and Jayakumar – landed in Colombo on Wednesday morning, and later proceeded to their hometown Jaffna.
On arrival from Chennai at 11am, Sri Lankan immigration officials questioned them for about three hours. The trio spent another five hours with CID police personnel and answered all queries, said their lawyer P Pugalenthi who accompanied them to Sri Lanka.
“To the accusation by immigration officials that they had left the island nation illegally in 1991, we explained how a war-like situation forced them to flee the island and that there was no time to adhere to procedural formalities.
“On their part, CID officers found that there were no cases pending against any of them in Sri Lanka. They were, therefore, allowed to proceed to Jaffna,” Pugalenthi told TOI.
Asked about Sriharan’s plan to get asylum in the UK and reunite with his daughter there, plus apprehension expressed in Madras high court that his life would be in danger if he ever returns to Sri Lanka, Pugalenthi said the Sri Lankan deputy high commission in Chennai gave all the three only a normal passport and not an all-country passport. “Regular passport warrants them to return to Sri Lanka and then pursue their visa options. There was no other way except to return to Sri Lanka,” he said.
The death of Sri Lankan nationals Krishnamoorthy and T Suthenthiraraja alias Santhan inside the special camp for foreign nationals at central prison in Trichy in a span of two months this year also worried them, Pugalenthi said, adding, “they realised their visa process would be delayed.”
On being released from the special camp on Tuesday night, the three left for Chennai . Their release was delayed as officials were waiting for orders from the deputy high commission of Sri Lanka in Chennai. Finally, Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Chennai carried out the deportation process.
The three were lodged at the special camp hours after they were released from the central prison at Puzhal on November 12, 2022, following a Supreme Court order.
In 1998, the three were sentenced to death by a TADA court, along all the 23 other suspects in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. However, Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty only for four people – Sriharan, his wife Nalini, Santhan alias T Suthendraraja, and A G Perarivalan. Three others – Robert Payas, Jayakumar and Ravichandran – were sentenced to imprisonment for life. In 2000, the death penalty of Nalini was commuted to life term on humanitarian grounds. In February 2014, Supreme Court commuted the death penalty of the three others to life imprisonment.
On Nov 11, 2022, Supreme Court offered them final relief by ordering their premature relief from jail. While Nalini, Jayakumar and Perarivalan rejoined their families in India, the remaining four were taken to the special campus in Tiruchi as they are Sri Lankan nationals. Of the four, only Santhan wanted to be sent back to Sri Lanka. He, however, fell ill and died on Feb 28.



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