SC unhappy over convict’s pardon plea

The bench was hearing a plea of 46-year-old A G Perarivalan who has sought suspension of his life sentence in the case

New Delhi : The Supreme Court Tuesday expressed unhappiness over the pendency of a plea by a convict seeking pardon in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case for over two years with the Tamil Nadu Governor.

The top court asked the counsel for petitioner A G Perarivalan, who is serving life sentence, whether the court can exercise its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution to request the Governor to decide his plea of pardon filed under Article 161. Article 161 empowers a Governor to pardon a convict in any criminal case.


A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi said, “We don’t want to exercise our jurisdiction at this stage but we are not happy that recommendation made by the government is pending for two years”.

The bench was hearing a plea of 46-year-old A G Perarivalan who has sought suspension of his life sentence in the case till the CBI-led Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) probe is completed.

During the hearing, the bench told senior advocate Gopal Shankarnarayanan, representing Perarivalan, that “the Governor has to act on the aid and advice of the council of ministers. But if the Governor does not pass order, what the court can do, you tell us”.


It asked Shankarnarayanan to apprise the court as to how it can request the Governor to take decision and what are the laws on the issue.

The top court then asked advocate Balaji Srinivasan, appearing for Tamil Nadu, as to why the state government cannot request the Governor to pass order without any specific order from this court?

Srinavasan said that Governor had sought report of the MDMA.

The bench then told ASG K M Nataraj, appearing for Centre, as to whether any request has been made by the state to send the report of MDMA.

He replied that the larger conspiracy probe is going on and the investigation is spread over various countries like in United Kingdom and Sri Lanka.


The bench told the ASG that the larger conspiracy theory is to find out if any other person, besides those convicted in the matter, are involved in this.

“It is not with respect to those who are convicted and are in jail. You look at it,” the bench told Nataraj, adding that the larger conspiracy probe is pending for almost 20 years.

It said that even after almost two decades of probe in the larger conspiracy aspect, the Centre is saying that it is in the process of getting response for Letter Rogatories (letters of request from a court to a foreign court for some type of judicial assistance) sent to various countries.

“You (Nataraj) look at it and tell us,” the bench said, while posting the matter for further hearing on November 23.


The bench allowed the petitioner and the Union of India to file additional documents, if any in the matter.

The state government had earlier told the top court that that the Cabinet has already passed a resolution on September 9, 2018 and recommended to the Governor for the premature release of all seven convicts in the case.

On January 21, the apex court had asked the state government to inform whether a decision has been taken by it on a pardon petition of a convict in the case.

The MDMA was set up in 1998 on the recommendations of the Justice M C Jain Commission of Inquiry which had probed the conspiracy aspect of Gandhi’s assassination.


Perarivalan’s counsel had earlier said his role was only limited to procuring nine-volt batteries, which were allegedly used in the improvised explosive device (IED) that had killed Gandhi.

On March 14 last year, the apex court had asked the MDMA to file a status report with regard to a LRs sent to Sri Lanka for examining one of the accused, Nixon alias Suren, who is lodged in a Colombo jail.

The top court had earlier dismissed a plea of Perarivalan seeking recall of the May 11, 1999, verdict upholding his conviction.

It had said the material brought on record before it does not inspire confidence to interfere with the verdict in which Perarivalan and three others were initially awarded death sentence, which was later commuted to life term.


The CBI had earlier submitted that Perarivalan had even visited Jaffna in Sri Lanka in the first week of June 1990, besides attending a public meeting along with other conspirators which was addressed by former Prime Minister V P Singh on May 7, 1991 in Tamil Nadu.

Perarivalan’s counsel had submitted that he was just a 19-year-old when the incident took place and had no knowledge of what he was doing and for what purpose the batteries were purchased.

Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at a poll rally.

Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed. Gandhi’s assassination was perhaps the first case of suicide bombing which had claimed the life of a high-profile leader.


In its May 1999 order, the top court had upheld the death sentence of four convicts — Perarivalan, Murugan, Santham and Nalini — in the assassination case.

In April 2000, the Tamil Nadu governor had commuted the death sentence of Nalini on the basis of the state government’s recommendation and an appeal by former Congress president and Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi.

On February 18, 2014, the top court had commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment, along with that of two other prisoners — Santhan and Murugan — on the grounds of 11-year delay in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre.

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Bulgaria court convicts two over 2012 Burgas bus attack on Israelis

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image captionBulgarian prosecutors said the evidence linked the defendants and the attack to Hezbollah

A Bulgarian court has sentenced two men to life in jail over a bus bombing in 2012 that killed five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian driver.

Meliad Farah, a Lebanese-Australian, and Hassan El Hajj Hassan, a Lebanese-Canadian, were found guilty of helping a Lebanese-French man who prosecutors said died after planting the bomb.

Their whereabouts are not known.

Prosecutors linked the attack to militant group Hezbollah. It denied involvement.

Hezbollah has been accused of carrying out a string of bombings and plots against Jewish and Israeli targets, and it is designated a terrorist organisation by several Western states and Israel.

The EU put Hezbollah’s military wing on its terrorism blacklist after the bombing.

  • Bulgaria names anti-Israeli bomber

  • Hezbollah fury at Bulgaria bomb link
  • Profile: Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement

How did the attack happen?

On 18 July 2012, a bus carrying Israeli tourists exploded outside the airport in the Bulgarian Black sea report of Burgas.

The following year, Bulgarian authorities named Meliad Farah and Hassan El Hajj Hassan as suspects in the bombing.

Prosecutors said the two men entered the country the month before the attack using fake ID documents, along with the bomber, who was later identified through DNA analysis as Lebanese-French dual national Mohamad Hassan El-Husseini. Farah and Hassan are thought to have left Bulgaria soon after the attack.

In 2016, Farah and Hassan were charged with complicity in an act of terrorism.

Prosecutors accused them of providing the explosive device and logistical support to El-Husseini, and said the evidence linked them to Hezbollah.

On Monday, Sofia’s Specialised Criminal Court found Farah and Hassan guilty and sentenced them to life in prison without parole. They were also ordered to pay compensation to the victims’ families.

“The court’s sentence reflects the punishment we asked for and is adequate to the committed crimes. Whether it will be served or not will be a result of the search of the wanted persons, which is ongoing,” Prosecutor Evgeniya Shtarkelova was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Related Topics

  • Israel

  • Lebanon
  • Bulgaria
  • Hezbollah

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UN tribunal convicts Hezbollah defendant in Hariri assassination case

“Mr Ayyash had a central role in the execution of the attack and directly contributed to it,” said Presiding Judge David Re, reading from a 2600-page ruling.

“Mr Ayyash intended to kill Mr Hariri and had the required knowledge about the circumstances of the assassination mission, including that explosives were the means to be used,” he said.

The judges said there was insufficient evidence against three other men charged as accomplices in the February 14, 2005 bombing, also alleged members of the Shi’ite Muslim group, and they were acquitted.

Hariri’s son, Saad, like his slain father a former Lebanese prime minister, reacted to the verdict by vowing he would not rest until punishment is served. He said it was time for the Hezbollah movement to assume responsibility.

“Hezbollah is the one that should make sacrifices today,” he said. “I repeat: we will not rest until punishment is served.”

Hezbollah has denied any involvement in Hariri’s killing. Its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday he was not concerned with the trial and that if any members of the group were convicted, it would stand by their innocence.

Polarised country

Hariri’s assassination plunged Lebanon into what was then its worst crisis since the war, setting the stage for years of confrontation between rival political forces.

It removed a powerful Sunni leader and allowed the further political expansion of Shi’ite power led by Hezbollah and its allies in Lebanon.

All four defendants were tried in absentia. Ayyash was formally convicted of a terrorist attack and the homicide of Hariri and 21 others. He will be sentenced at later hearings and could face life in prison.

“I’m very disappointed, like many Lebanese,” said 36-year old Lebanese-born Ahmad Sayed, who drove out from Bielefeld in neighbouring Germany to witness the decision.

“Fifteen years we waited for this verdict and it was very weak. We don’t like this decision,” he said.

The verdict comes as Lebanon is still reeling from the aftermath of a huge explosion in Beirut that killed 178 people, and from a devastating economic meltdown. The August 4 explosion at the port, where authorities say unsafely stored ammonium nitrate detonated, fuelled public outrage and led to the government’s resignation.

Political motivation

The judges noted that days before he was slain, Hariri endorsed a call for Syria to end its then-occupation of Lebanon.

While the judges did not say who had planned the attack, they said it was “very likely” that the decision to kill him was only made after a February 2, 2005, political meeting at which participants had agreed to call for the “immediate and total withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon”.

The investigation and trial of the four alleged Hezbollah members has taken 15 years and cost roughly $US1 billion ($1.4 billion).


Prosecutors used mobile phone records to argue the men on trial – Ayyash, Hassan Habib Merhi, Assad Hassan Sabra and Hussein Hassan Oneissi – carefully monitored Hariri’s movements in the months leading up to the attack to time it and to put forward a fake claim of responsibility as a diversion.

DNA evidence showed that the blast that killed Hariri was carried out by a male suicide bomber who was never identified.

Beirut tour guide Nada Nammour, 54, speaking before the reading of the verdict began, said the 2005 bombing was a crime that should be punished. “Lebanon needs to see law and justice.”


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Thousands of convicts died in Tasmania. Where many lie remains a mystery

It is believed almost 7,000 convicts died under sentence during Tasmania’s convict period.

About 75,000 convicts did time in Tasmania, or Van Diemen’s Land as it was then, under a punishment system that ended in 1853.

Most convicts were transported from Britain and Ireland and some lie in known burial sites like the notorious Isle of the Dead at Port Arthur.

Archaeologist Dr Richard Tuffin said many burial sites were still a mystery, particularly at the 45 former probation stations scattered around the island.

“We don’t really know what’s being lost,” Dr Tuffin said.

“There’s still quite a lot to be done in identifying places that were near to these big stations.”

Many were interred at parish burial sites, some of which were later developed into schools and parks.

Dr Tuffin is hopeful local history groups can add pieces to the puzzle when it comes to the former stations.

About 400 convicts are buried on the Isle of the Dead, Port Arthur(Supplied: Tasmanian Archives)

‘Duty of care’ for dead convicts

During service in Van Diemen’s Land, convicts died from accidents, disease, murder, suicide and old age.

Dr Tuffin has studied the post-mortem treatment of convicts, as well as working to identify burial grounds.

He said there was a misconception about the treatment of convicts when they died, and brutality had been romanticised over the years.

“We are thinking they were thrown in holes or have heard stories about them being buried standing up and stacked in graves with a bit of lime thrown over them,” he said.

“I wanted to see how true that was. What I found was there was a duty of care.”

Dr Tuffin said during his research he found that in most cases convicts were buried in coffins and given a service.

“There’s many accounts of graves having a bit of wood put up,” he said.

He said churches were paid a modest amount by the government to hold a service.

“Absolutely, there were cases of maltreatment of the dead, like there is today.”

Maria Island, world heritage Darlington settlement
There are former probation stations scattered across Tasmania, Dr Tuffin says many of them would have burial sites nearby.(Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife service: abc rural)

‘We worry every day’

Dr Tuffin said soldiers posted in the colony had a higher death rate than convicts.

“The death rate for convicts was actually incredibly low,” Dr Tuffin said.

“The people who are keeping watch on the convicts are dying at a higher rate than the convicts themselves.”

During its peak, the penal colony at Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula had turned into a small town.

A cemetery was created on a small nearby island, with the bodies rowed out and buried until 1876.

More than 400 convicts lie on the island, as well as soldiers and free settlers.

Picture of a man standing in front of an old sandstone building
University of New England research fellow Dr Richard Tuffin.(ABC Radio Hobart: Georgie Burgess)

Dr Tuffin has studied parish burial records and probation station records during his work to identify sites.

He said there were burial sites of convicts elsewhere on the Tasman Peninsula, Launceston, and the West Coast, as well as at probation stations in the channel area, such as South Port, Dover and Port Esperance.

“They would have all had attached burial grounds but I wasn’t able to identify where they were,” he said.

He said further studies were needed to find other burial grounds, involving complex archival work.

“Let’s identify them,” he said.

Dr Tuffin said the sites should not be dug up, and is concerned development could occur on top of them.

“That’s what we worry about every day,” he said.

A stone plaque dedicated to the more than 500 settlers and bond convicts buried beneath Campbell Street Primary.
The stone plaque dedicated to the more than 500 settlers and bond convicts buried beneath Campbell Street Primary.(ABC News: Andy Cunningham)

Protecting heritage, respecting the dead

There are 5,000 places listed in the Heritage Register in Tasmania, including some cemeteries and burial grounds.

Heritage Tasmania works manager Ian Boersma said from time to time land owners and developers needed advice on how to manage cemeteries or potential grave sites.

While he said it’s not common, on his first day in the job he got a call about some road works that had uncovered a burial site.

“Some workman had uncovered suspected graves, so we went down there and it was later determined with archaeological input that these were grave sites that had been uncovered,” he said.

He said there were many churches in the Heritage Register that had cemeteries attached to them.

“Churches are often bought privately,” he said.

“That presents quite interesting challenges for the new owners.

Black and white photo of grave stones surrounded by bush
Free settlers and soldiers were given proper gravestones on the Isle of the Dead, convicts were often marked with wood.(Supplied: Tasmanian Archives)

Treading carefully

Mr Boersma said known burial grounds with no above-ground monuments also posed challenges.

“Quite a few cemeteries were rehabilitated to become park land,” he said.

“Sometimes we don’t know how far a cemetery extended to.

A grassed area behind St Johns Park, Hobart, where people are buried.
Unmarked graves at St Johns Park contain the remains of many children and Aboriginal families.(ABC News: Selina Ross)

He gave the example of works near St Johns Park in New Town.

“A condition of the development was a historical study so we could get information on where burials were,” he said.

Picture of an old sandstone building
Dr Tuffin wants to identify convict burial sites across the state.(ABC Radio Hobart: Georgie Burgess)

Mr Boersma said there was room for more work on identifying burial grounds.

“The exact extent of burial grounds is not mapped out,” he said.

“Convict history is a large part of our state’s history.

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Soldiers, thieves, Māori warriors: NZ convicts sent to Australia

Soldiers, thieves, Māori warriors: the NZ convicts sent to Australia

Portrait of Hohepa Te Umuroa by William Duke. Wikimedia Commons.

Soon after it became a British colony, New Zealand began shipping the worst of its offenders across the Tasman Sea. Between 1843 and 1853, an eclectic mix of more than 110 soldiers, sailors, Māori, civilians and convict absconders from the Australian penal colonies were transported from New Zealand to Van Diemen’s Land.

This little-known chapter of history happened for several reasons. The colonists wanted to cleanse their land of thieves, vagrants and murderers and deal with Māori opposition to colonisation. Transporting fighting men like Hōhepa Te Umuroa, Te Kūmete, Te Waretiti, Matiu Tikiahi and Te Rāhui for life to Van Diemen’s Land was meant to subdue Māori resistance.

Transportation was also used to punish redcoats (the British soldiers sent to guard the colony and fight opposing Māori), who deserted their regiments or otherwise misbehaved. Some soldiers were so terrified of Māori warriors that they took off when faced with the enemy.

Early colonial New Zealand had no room for reprobates. Idealised as a new sort of colony for gentlefolk and free labourers, New Zealanders aspired towards creating a utopia by brutally suppressing challenges to that dream. On 4 November 1841, the colony’s first governor, William Hobson, named Van Diemen’s Land as the site to which its prisoners would be sent.

William Phelps Pickering, his second wife Grace Martha, and two of her children. Author provided.

The first boatload arrived in Hobart in 1843 and included William Phelps Pickering, one of the few white-collar criminals transported across the Tasman. Pickering later lived as a gentleman after returning home.

In 1840s Van Diemen’s Land, convict labourers were sent to probation stations before being hired out. Many men transported from New Zealand were sent down the Tasman Peninsula, where labourers were needed at the time.

Ironically, those eventually allocated to masters or mistresses in larger centres like Hobart or Launceston would have enjoyed more developed living conditions than New Zealand’s fledgling townships. In those days, Auckland’s main street was rather muddy. Early colonial buildings were often constructed by Māori from local materials.

At least 51 redcoats were shipped to the penal island. Some committed crimes after being discharged from the military. But many faced charges related to desertion. Four of the six soldier convicts who arrived Van Diemen’s Land in June 1847 were court-martialed in Auckland the previous winter for “deserting in the vicinity of hostile natives”.

Irish Catholic soldier Richard Shea, for instance, was a private in the 99th Regiment who used his firelock to strike his lieutenant while on parade. This earned him a passage on the Castor to Van Diemen’s Land. His three military companions on the vessel, William Lane, George Morris and John Bailey, all claimed to have been taken by Maori north of Auckland and kept prisoner for four months. But surviving records reveal that their military overlords thought that the three had instead deserted to join the ranks of a rebel chief.As Irish soldier convict Michael Tobin explained, the deserters had been returned to the colonists by ‘friendly natives’; that is, Māori who were loyal to the Crown during the New Zealand Wars. Perhaps as a form of insurance, Tobin had also struck Captain Armstrong, his superior. Several other soldiers also used violence against a superior – it was bound to ensure a sentence of transportation, removing them from the theatre of war.

Maori fighters

In 1846, NZ governor George Grey proclaimed martial law across the Wellington region. When several Māori fighters were eventually captured and handed over to colonists by the Crown’s Indigenous allies, they were tried by court martial at Porirua, north of Wellington.

A portrait of Matiu Tikiaki by John Skinner Prout, painted in Hobart in 1846. British Museum, CC BY-NC-SA.

After being found guilty of charges that included being in open rebellion against Queen and country, five were sentenced to transportation for life in Van Diemen’s Land. The traditionally-clothed Māori attracted a lot of attention in Hobart, where colonists loudly disapproved of their New Zealand neighbours’ treatment of Indigenous people. This is ironic given the Tasmanians’ own near-genocidal war against Aboriginal people.

Grey had wanted the Māori warriors sent to Norfolk Island or Port Arthur and hoped they would write letters to their allies at home describing how harshly they were being treated. Instead, they were initially held in Hobart, where they were visited by media and other well-wishers. Colonial artist John Skinner Prout painted translucent watercolour portraits of them. Each of the fighters used pencil to sign his name to his likeness. William Duke created a portrait of Te Umuroa in oils.

Hobartians were worried that the Māori could become contaminated through contact with other convicts. Arrangements were made to send them to Maria Island off the island’s east coast, where they could live separately from the other convicts.

John Jennings Imrie, a man who previously lived in New Zealand and knew some Māori language, became their overseer. Their lives in captivity were as gentle as possible and involved Bible study, vegetable gardening, nature walks and hunting.

Hohepa Te Umuroa’s headstone at Darlington on Maria Island. Kristyn Harman.

Following lobbying from Tasmanian colonists and a pardon from Britain, four of the men, Te Kūmete, Te Waretiti, Matiu Tikiahi, Te Rāhui, were sent home in 1848. Te Umuroa died in custody at the Maria Island probation station in July 1847. It was not until 1988 that his remains were repatriated to New Zealand.

Reducing crime through imposing exemplary sentences saw dozens of working-class men transported to Van Diemen’s Land. One such fellow was James Beckett, a sausage-seller transported for theft for seven years. The only woman sent from New Zealand, Margaret Reardon, was sentenced to seven years’ transportation for perjuring herself trying to protect her partner (and possibly herself) from murder charges. After being found guilty of murdering Lieutenant Robert Snow on Auckland’s North Shore in 1847, the following year Reardon’s former lover Joseph Burns became the first white man judicially executed in New Zealand.

At one stage, Reardon was sent to the Female Factory at Cascades on Hobart’s outskirts to be punished for a transgression. Eventually, she remarried and moved to Victoria where she died in old age.

In 1853, transportation to Van Diemen’s Land formally ended. New Zealand then had to upgrade its flimsy gaols so criminals could be punished within its own borders.The Conversation

Kristyn Harman, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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