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NEPAL: CPJ asks about status of pro-Maoist editor Krishna Sen


June 28, 2002

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba
Prime Minister's Office
Singh Durbar
Kathmandu

Via facsimile: +997 1 227286


Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to request urgent information about the status of Krishna Sen, editor of the pro-Maoist daily Janadisha and former editor of the pro-Maoist daily Janadesh.

A report published in the June 26 edition of the Nepali-language weekly Jana Aastha stated that Sen, who was arrested on May 20, was severely tortured and died in police custody at Kathmandu's Mahendra Police Club.The government had accused Sen of being among the senior leaders of the Maoist movement and of commanding rebel operations in Kathmandu but has not presented its case against him in court.

According to the paper, on Saturday, June 22, Sen's body was taken to the Birendra Police Hospital in the Maharajgunj area of Kathmandu, where doctors prepared a final report saying that he died of gunshot wounds in the stomach and chest. Jana Aastha also reported that the body was later cremated at the Pashupatinath Temple.

The paper's account, which was based on confidential sources, could not be independently confirmed. These allegations have since been widely reported by the local and international media, including Kantipur, Nepal's largest daily newspaper, the BBC, and The Associated Press.

Krishna Sen's wife, Takma K.C., told a Kantipur reporter today that she first learned of her husband's possible death from media reports. She said neither she nor her relatives have seen his body.

Takma K.C. said that she herself was detained in late May, shortly after the arrest of her husband, but that an army officer assured her at the time that Sen was safe and had been handed over to police after being interrogated by the army. Takma K.C. said she was held for two days at the Balaju army barracks in Kathmandu.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ is extremely concerned about reports that Sen may have been killed in custody.

Government officials have not responded to repeated requests from journalists for information regarding Sen's status. Neither the Home Ministry, which oversees the police, nor the Defense Ministry has been willing to comment publicly on the Sen case. Information Minister Jayaprakash Gupta said, "I don't even know about the arrest of Sen. But what I can tell you is that I don't think such an incident could take place in police custody," according to a report published today by the Kathmandu Post.

During a recent meeting with Your Excellency, CPJ raised several cases of journalists arrested and tortured in custody. CPJ emphasized that in all cases, including those in which journalists are accused of direct involvement in rebel activities, authorities should present charges before an open court, grant due process rights, and never use torture. At that time, Your Excellency pledged to look into cases where abuses have occurred and said that, "We have instructed the army and the police not to violate human rights."

CPJ is also worried about the security of Kishor Shrestha, editor of Jana Aastha. Since his newspaper first reported Sen's alleged killing, Shrestha has feared arrest, according to colleagues. Newspaper employees confirmed that a man who was patrolling the area in front of their offices today was a plainclothes police officer.

We call on you to make public the whereabouts of Krishna Sen, and we also urge you to do everything within your power to ensure that Shrestha and all other Nepalese journalists do not face harassment for fulfilling their professional duties.

Thank you for your immediate attention to these urgent matters. We await your response.

Sincerely,

Ann Cooper
Executive Director
Published

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