Nepal: Authorities conspire to keep leftist editor in jail

March 1, 2000

His Excellency Krishna Prasad Bhattarai
Prime Minister, Kingdom of Nepal
Office of the Prime Minister
Singh Durbar
Kathmandu, Nepal
Via Fax: 977-1-227-286

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply disturbed by the prolonged imprisonment of Krishna Sen, editor of the Nepali-language weekly Janadesh. Though police claim that Sen was freed on February 9 and arrested on an unrelated charge on February 13, CPJ has learned that Sen was never truly released. He has been in police custody for more than ten months, according to CPJ’s sources.

Police first arrested Sen in Kathmandu on April 19, 1999, and detained him under provisions of the Public Security Act that sanction preventive detention for those considered a threat to domestic security and tranquillity. Police filed a charge sheet recording Sen’s arrest on April 20. CPJ believes the arrest was prompted by that week’s edition of Janadesh, which featured an interview with Baburam Bhattarai, one of the leaders of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. On the day Sen was arrested, police reportedly confiscated 20,000 copies of the weekly in order to prevent the interview from being widely read.

The Supreme Court ordered Sen’s release on August 10, 1999. But according to Sen’s lawyer, Yekraj Bhandari, police and district officials then conspired to keep Sen in detention by forging release papers and re-arresting him on trumped-up charges.

Sen was originally held at Bhadragol Jail, in Kathmandu. On February 9, prison authorities allegedly forced Sen to sign papers certifying his release. However, he was never actually released. Instead he was moved to the Maharajgunj Police Training Centre, according to CPJ’s sources. Amnesty International has reported that this training facility has been used for the secret detention of people suspected of involvement with the Maoist insurgency.

Police in the southeastern district of Siraha reportedly filed a new charge sheet against Sen on February 18. According to the new charges, Sen was arrested at around 1:00 a.m. on February 13, for carrying illegal weapons. CPJ’s sources, however, say that Sen was secretly transferred to Siraha Jail around February 13, and that the new charges against Sen are false. Sen is now being held in Siraha Jail under the Arms and Ammunitions Act.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ is outraged by the authorities’ treatment of Krishna Sen. We respectfully urge Your Excellency to order Sen’s immediate release, as he has now been held for more than ten months on charges that have never been proven in a court of law.

CPJ also asks that you order a prompt investigation into the actions of the police at Bhadragol Jail and Siraha Jail. We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and await your response.

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director