Salem, Tamil Nadu:
The wife of notorious sandalwood smuggler Veerappan has said that four associates of her husband who are on death row for a 1993 landmine blast case should be spared from execution. The mercy petitions of the four men have been rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee. They could be executed in the next 14 days, sources have said.
"Already my husband has been killed by Tamil Nadu police at Dharmapuri. Now four of his associates are going to be hanged. Please, it should not be carried out," Muthulakshmi said today.
The four convicts - Veerappan's elder brother Gnanaprakash, Simon, Meesekar Madaiah and Bilavendran - are currently lodged in a jail in Belgaum in Karnataka. They were sentenced to life by a TADA court in Mysore in connection with a blast at Palar in Karnataka in which 22 police personnel were killed. The Supreme Court awarded them the death sentence in 2004. Gang leader Veerappan was killed in an encounter with the Tamil Nadu police in October 2004.
Prison authorities in Belgaum have reportedly informed the families of the four men about the rejection of the mercy pleas. "It is a shocking news that the four would be hanged since their mercy petitions were rejected by the President", said Madaiah's wife Thangammal, who is 60 years old. She said she had met her husband six months ago in the prison. "He had told me then that he will be released within a few months. But all of a sudden I am hearing that he will be hanged. It is like breaking my head with a hammer," she added.
While the news has brought sorrow to the families of the four convicts, family members of the policemen who were killed in the blast have hailed the President's decision. "My brother was brave. Me and my father fought a lot to get justice. We are happy with the President's decision," Mohd Jameed Ahmed, brother of blast victim Sub Inspector Shakeel Ahmed, told NDTV.
The President's refusal to commute their sentence to life comes just days after he rejected a mercy petition filed on behalf of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. He was hanged at Delhi's Tihar Jail six days after the rejection of his mercy plea.