Death Sentence

NEW DELHI, August 11, 2011 (AFP) - India's president has rejected mercy pleas from three men convicted of the 1991 assassination of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, paving the way for their execution, an official told AFP on Thursday.

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"The rejection (of the clemency petitions) happened last week after the president returned from a foreign tour," presidential spokeswoman Archana Datta told AFP.

The appeal sent to President Pratibha Patil by the three -- Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, all known by single names -- were their last hope of escaping the hangman's noose.

The condemned men, who belonged to Sri Lanka's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militant group, are charged with plotting the May 21, 1991 killing of Gandhi by a female suicide bomber.

The Supreme Court in 1999 confirmed the death sentences of the three men, but commuted the capital punishment to life in prison for Nalini Sriharan, an Indian Tamil woman who was also convicted.

The three men sought a presidential pardon after the top court's verdict.

A woman with explosives strapped to her body blew herself up, killing Gandhi instantly while he was on an election tour in the southern Indian town of Sriperumbudur.

His shredded clothes and the

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