Sobhraj asks Nepal Maoists for justice

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : After having approached the UN, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Nepal’s King Gyanendra, yesteryear’s crime mastermind Charles Sobhraj has now appealed to radically different quarters for justice – the former Maoist guerrillas.

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Closely watching from behind bars the political changes in Nepal since he was arrested in the Himalayan kingdom in 2003 and slapped a 20-year jail term for the murder of an American tourist in the 1970s, Sobhraj is now pinning his hopes on the former rebels who recently shed their violent image to return to mainstream politics.

The French national, who is fighting his sentence in Nepal’s Supreme Court, has written a letter to Nepal’s influential Physical Planning and Works Minister Hisila Yami asking for “justice” and “protection”.

Copies of the appeal have also been forwarded to Maoist supremo Prachanda, who is likely to be the next prime minister of Nepal, his deputy and Yami’s husband Baburam Bhattarai, Sarkozy and the French ambassador to Nepal.

Signed “respectfully yours”, the four-page letter alleges that Sobhraj is being harassed after he made a philanthropic gesture.

Last month, soon after the historic constituent assembly election, a local daily reported that a teen had been kicked out of her family home by her father for having voted for the Maoists.

Sobhraj, who read the report in his cell in Kathmandu’s central prison, immediately dashed off a letter to the Himalayan Times daily, lauding the girl’s spirit and offering to pay for her college education.

His letter to the Maoist minister also adds that he had in the past donated money to two women whose husbands were Maoists killed in the public protests of 2006, which ended King Gyanendra’s regime and helped the Maoists come to power.

Besides, he adds, he had helped a fellow Maoist prisoner get medical attention.

“He was detained by the army incommunicado and his eyes were blindfolded for two years,” the letter says. “When he came to this jail from army custody, he could not see and focus properly. He requested me to help him with medicine and a pair of dark glasses – which I donated.”

After his sponsorship offer to the defiant teen, Sobhraj says a reporter from the daily complained to the jailer that he was mouthing political statements in violation of prison regulations. The complaint, the letter says, resulted in a raid of his cell to search for unauthorised documents and the curtailment of his right to receive visitors.

“As a Frenchman, I have always supported people who have been fighting for dignity, fraternity, equality and liberty and freedom from oppression,” the appeal to the Maoist minister says.

It remains to be seen if the Maoist minister will intervene on his behalf.

During King Gyanendra’s absolute rule, his lawyer had written to the monarch, asking for a royal pardon but was stonily ignored.