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Nepal PM 'orders' halt in journo killing probe

Publication Date : 09-01-2013

 

Renewed hopes for justice following the recent arrest of five Maoists in connection with the 2004 murder of journalist Dekendra Thapa have been dampened yesterday, with Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai allegedly issuing orders to stop the investigations.

The District Police Office (DPO) and the District Attorney’s Office in Dailekh have been directed by the “higher-up” to suspend the investigations and all court proceedings in the case.

A source said the “higher-up” in question was PM Bhattarai himself, who reached out to the Nepal Police Headquarters and the Office of the Attorney General, asking them to stop the inquest, immediately.

It is learnt that Deputy Superintendent of Police Sharada Prasad Chaudhary and investigating officer Binod Sharma of the DPO were pressed to discontinue the probe. Both Chaudhary and Sharma refused to confirm the source’s claim.

Sharma, however, said he has with him the recorded telephone conversation between him and a Maoist leader where the latter has threatened to “finish off” his wife and children.

Local journalists are also reportedly being harassed by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist for reporting the story on Thapa’s case.

Puskhar Thapa, the district chairman of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), said journalists in Dailekh started receiving a barrage of threats after the cadres from the two parties were arrested.

The FNJ on Monday apprised Chief District Officer Umesh Kumar Dhakal of the matter.  

FNJ Chairman Shiva Gaunle denounced the threats issued by the two parties to the journalists and security personnel involved in the investigations.

He took serious exception to Bhattarai’s alleged intervention in the case, terming it an attempt to undermine the state mechanism and sabotage the rule of law.

“His direction to halt the investigation process could cost him dear,” Gaunle said.

“The arrested have themselves confessed to their crime, but the country’s chief executive is defending the case.”

The last two days of interrogation of the suspects had led the police to a shocking revelation: one of the accused, Lachhiram Gharti, admitted that Thapa was tortured for two days and buried alive. Gharti’s confession had  given hopes for justice among the media fraternity, rights groups and the victim’s family. Dailekh police had held the five suspects in connection with Thapa’s murder on Friday and Saturday.

Four of the accused are associated with the Mohan Baidya-led CPN-M while the fifth is the district member of the UCPN (Maoist).

The district court had remanded the quintet to five days in judicial custody on Sunday. Their remand expires on Thursday and they are yet to be produced in the court.

Dambar Prasad Kafle of the District Attorney’s Office said the case will not stall as the legal proceedings have already begun.

“The suspects will be tried in the court, even if that means extending their remand,” he said.

 

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