Court bows to bandit’s demands, BBC World Service, August 19, 2000
A court in southern India has dropped terrorism charges against 51 people whose release from prison has been demanded by the bandit Veerappan, in return for freeing the kidnapped film star Rajkumar.
The prisoners, 12 of them women, who have been in detention for varying periods since 1992, are suspected to be former associates of Veerappan, who has waged a 30-year campaign of kidnapping, poaching and smuggling in southern India.
He has been holding the veteran film star in dense forest on the border between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for nearly three weeks.
The 51 have been held in a prison in Mysore, 140km (90 miles) south of the state capital Bangalore, for varying periods since 1993. Lawyers said they would be released on Monday.
Earlier in the week, a court in neighbouring Tamil Nadu dropped charges against five hard-line Tamil nationalists, whose release had also been demanded by Veerappan.However, four of the five Tamils have set their own tough terms before they will agree to be freed.
They are demanding that the state government drop all charges against them and release them unconditionally, rather than on bail.
Veerappan has also demanded that a long-standing dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over the sharing of water from the Cauvery River be referred to the International Court of Justice.
Although the two state governments have given way to most of the demands, they say legal hurdles are obstructing progress on the water dispute.
The government’s envoy, RR Gopal, is still in the thick forests on the border between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, where Rajkumar is being held.
There is no indication of when the actor – and three of his relatives, who were also kidnapped – might be released.
Mr Gopal, editor of the Tamil-language magazine Nakeeran, has dealt with Veerappan before.In 1997, he brokered an agreement to secure the release of nine kidnapped forest rangers.
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