Nepal`s ex-crown prince arrested, charged with bid to kill

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 16:29

Kathmandu: Two years after Nepal`s royal family were turned into commoners and stripped of all privileges, former crown prince Paras Bir Bikram Shah Tuesday paid the penalty for still living in the past as police arrested him and slapped him with attempt to murder charge.

Watched by shocked supporters and advisors, the controversial 39-year-old, who had in the past escaped facing manslaughter, battery and assault charges, was taken into custody by policemen who surrounded the plush Fulbari resort in Pokhara city. The former heir to Nepal`s throne flew in there with his friends after creating a fracas at Chitwan wildlife reserve last weekend.

After a standoff with the hotel authorities, police took the pony-tailed, fiery-tempered Paras under control to fly him back to Chitwan district, where an attempted murder charge has been filed against him, the state-run Nepal Television reported.

The payback for the wayward prince started after he got into a drunken brawl with a fellow guest Saturday night at the Tiger Tops wildlife lodge in Chitwan district.

During the dispute, Paras allegedly pointed a gun at a guest`s head, threatened to kill him and his family members and finally, fired shots in the air.

Ordinarily, the brawl would have been hushed up. However, this time the incident snowballed since the guest Paras attacked was the son-in-law of Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala.

Paras reportedly declined to speak to the police team, saying he wanted to consult his lawyers first.

The police action came after mounting public and political pressure on the caretaker government of Nepal to take punitive action against the wayward former royal.

Paras, notorious for his quick temper and weakness for alcohol, hit the headlines with a vengeance two years after the abolition of monarchy in Nepal and his self-exile to Singapore for picking a drink-driven fight with Rubel Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi national married to Koirala`s daughter Melanie.

Though Nepal`s weak caretaker government had initially turned a blind eye to Paras`s shooting in Chitwan, it was, however, forced to take action following protests by Koirala`s Nepali Congress, the largest party in the ruling alliance, and the media outcry.

After a four-member police team was sent to the Chitwan resort to investigate, the home ministry said it had also formed a second probe panel headed by a deputy inspector-general of police.

This is the first time that police have taken into custody a member of the erstwhile royal family that, though stripped of all legal immunity after the abolition of monarchy in 2008, continues to wield formidable power still.

Paras` victim, Rubel Chowdhury remained shaken.

Chowdhury said Paras had got into a conversation with him at the Chitwan resort Saturday night.

Initially, he seemed a "nice guy", Chowdhury said, till he began drinking.

Then a change came over the former crown prince who revealed his raw wound at having lost his chance to become the king of Nepal and being turned into a commoner.

Chowdhury said Paras accused the Koirala family of being instrumental in the abolition of monarchy and threatened to kill Chowdhury, his wife and son.

Issuing a statement soon after the brawl, Paras admitted to having fired in the air. However, he defended himself by saying that Chowdhury and his companion, an Indian, had insulted him, his family and his country, an allegation that Chowdhury denied.

"How could I insult Nepal?" Chowdhury said. "I am married to a Nepali myself."

Paras` new escapade resurrects the ghost of the royal massacre of 2001 when King Birendra and nine more members of the royal family were killed in a hail of bullets in the tightly guarded royal palace, paving the way for Paras` father Gyanendra to ascend the throne.
Paras, who was present during the carnage but survived, is regarded with suspicion by Nepalis despite his statements that the bloodbath was perpetrated by Birendra`s son Dipendra.

Now there is also fresh public concern about the number of illegal firearms still lying in the possession of Nepal`s former royals.

As media outcry and political condemnation started pouring in, it was also discovered that the former prince did not have a licence for his pistol.
Carrying a gun illegally can fetch its owner a fine ranging from NRS 60,000-140,000 or a prison sentence of up to seven years or both.

If found guilty of an attempt to murder, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 16 years.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal Tuesday said he had given orders to the home ministry to take action against Paras.

However, the opposition Maoist party remained sceptical, saying the government did not have the courage to punish Paras.

IANS



First Published: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 16:29

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