Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict Santhan dies in Chennai hospital

In January, Santhan had petitioned the Madras HC alleging that authorities at the special camp did not take any action to provide him treatment.
Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convict Santhan dies in Chennai hospital
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Suthendraraja T alias Santhan, a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, passed away on Wednesday, February 28. Santhan, a Sri Lankan, who was a member of the LTTE, was 56-year-old. He was released by the Supreme Court in November 2022 and has been lodged in the special camp inside the Trichy central prison campus in Tamil Nadu since then. The Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Chennai issued an order to deport him on February 23, and it was said that he would be deported within two days to Sri Lanka. However, he was admitted to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General hospital in early February and the doctors declared he suffered a cardiac arrest on February 28 at 7.50 am. He was diagnosed with cryptogenic cirrhosis, a non-alcoholic condition that impairs liver function.

Speaking to TNM, advocate Pugazhendhi, counsel of Santhan said at around 7.50 am the doctors confirmed Santhan died of cardiac arrest. “His brother was there at the hospital when he passed away. His body will be taken to his house in Sri Lanka for final rites. Arrangements are being made,” he added.

The four Sri Lankan convicts in the case - Santhan, Robert Payas, Murugan alias Sriharan, and Jayakumar – were moved from the Vellore prison to a special camp located inside the Trichy Central Prison camp after their release. Santhan, a resident of Jaffna had come to India in 1990 as a student sponsored by the LTTE. Though he was not with the assassination group inside the Sriperumbudur ground, Santhan had been asked to stay outside and inform the LTTE handler if anything went wrong. According to the Supreme Court, he was aware of the assassination plot and guilty of harbouring assassins.

In January, Santhan filed a petition at the Madras High Court urging authorities to shift him to the hospital citing that he was sick. He also alleged that the authorities at the special camp did not take any action to provide him treatment. He had also filed another petition at the HC seeking direction to deport him as his mother was seriously ill. In June 2023, he wrote a letter seeking release from the special camp, in which he said that the jail was better than the room in the special camp for refugees, and asked Tamil people to raise their voice. 

In the letter, he also stated that the four convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case were made to stay in rooms where the windows are closed by a tin sheet, and away from the main portion of the special camp. “Eelam Tamils and the Tamil diaspora should give their voice for us. Your long silence is sending out the wrong message to those who want to suppress us. For 32 years I have not seen my mother. I couldn’t be with my father in his last years and it has been troubling me. If my desire to be with my mom during her last days is wrong, then no one has to support me,” he wrote.

Read: ‘Jail was freer than special camp’: Rajiv Gandhi case convict writes letter to Tamil people

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 by a suicide bomber of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at an election meeting in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. On January 20, 1998 a TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) court sentenced 26 of the accused to death. In 1999, 19 persons were acquitted and the remaining seven – Murugan, Nalini, AG Perarivalan, Santhan, Jayakumar, Robert Payas and P Ravichandran retained their death penalties, which was later commuted to life imprisonment. While AG Perarivalan was released in May 2022, six convicts of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case were released by the Supreme Court on November 11. 

Read: Perarivalan’s long wait: A timeline of events since Rajiv Gandhi assassination

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