Leftist editor disappears

March 12, 2001 12:00 PM ET

March 12, 2001

His Excellency Girija Prasad Koirala
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 gravely concerned over the disappearance of Krishna Sen, editor of the Nepali-language weekly Janadesh. Though authorities claim Sen was released from Rajbiraj Jail on the night of March 10, following a March 8 Supreme Court ruling that his detention violated Nepal's habeas corpus protections, local journalists and human rights advocates have reported him missing.

Sen is currently thought to be in illegal police custody. If this is the case, it would mark the second time authorities have failed to comply with a Supreme Court order for his release.

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 tranquility. 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 first ordered Sen's release on August 10, 1999. But according to his attorney, Yekraj Bhandari, police and district officials then conspired to keep the journalist in detention by forging release papers and then "re-arresting" him days later on false charges.

Prison authorities forced Sen to sign papers certifying his release from Bhadragol Jail in Kathmandu on February 9, according to Bhandari. Sen was not released, however. Instead, he was secretly transferred to the southeastern district of Siraha, where police said he was detained on February 13. Authorities then charged him with carrying illegal weapons under the provisions of the Arms and Ammunitions Act. Around August 2000, Sen was transferred yet again, this time to Rajbiraj Jail.

Legal proceedings in Sen's case were postponed repeatedly throughout 2000. On March 8, 2001, however, the Supreme Court of Nepal ruled his detention illegal and ordered his release.

According to a report published today in the national daily Kathmandu Post, Sen contacted journalists on the evening of March 10, and asked them to appear at Rajbiraj Jail on the morning of March 11, when he expected to be released. But when journalists arrived on March 11, Hom Nath Khatri, an official at Rajbiraj Jail, told them that Sen had been released the previous night. The editor's current whereabouts are unknown.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ respectfully urges Your Excellency to ensure that the Supreme Court's order is carried out, and to confirm publicly that Krishna Sen has been released. Given prison authorities' record of duplicity in this affair, however, we will not feel satisfied that Sen is safe until it is clear that he is free to work, travel, and speak to the press.

Finally, we urge you to order a prompt investigation into allegations that officials at Bhadragol, Siraha, and Rajbiraj jails conspired in Sen's illegal detention.

We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and await your response.


Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director

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