Leftist editor released from jail

New York, March 21, 2001 — CPJ welcomes last week’s release of Krishna Sen, editor of the leftist Nepali-language weekly Janadesh. Sen had been imprisoned for nearly two years on charges that were never proven in court. Nepalese authorities twice flouted Supreme Court orders for his release by secretly transferring him to a different jail and then claiming he had been “re-arrested.”

This ruse was last attempted on March 10, when authorities announced Sen had been released from Rajbiraj Jail in response to a March 8 Supreme Court ruling that his detention violated Nepal’s habeas corpus protections. However, local journalists and human rights advocates reported him missing and feared he was being kept in illegal police custody.

In a March 12 letter, CPJ asked Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to confirm publicly that Krishna Sen was in fact free. CPJ added that “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.” [Read the letter]

Under mounting national and international pressure, the government ordered Sen’s release from Jaleswor Jail, in Mahottari District, where he had been transferred after his purported “release” from Rajbiraj. On the afternoon of March 15, Sen was turned over to a delegation from the Federation of Nepalese Journalists.

“I’m still feeling insecure,” Sen said after his release, according to a report published in the Kathmandu Post. “I doubt if the government is really sincere.”

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.