New Sobhraj battle from October 29

Last Updated: Thursday, August 27, 2009 - 16:00

Kathmandu: Nepal`s Supreme Court said it will start hearing from October 29 yesteryear`s `Serpent` Charles Sobhraj`s appeal in a nearly 30-year-old murder case that, for the first time in a crime career spanning two decades and several continents, found him guilty and put him behind bars with a life term.
It is the last chance for the 65-year-old -- who during his six-year imprisonment in Nepal has soaked up more of the local law than many criminal lawyers -- to prove his innocence or remain in prison till his jail term ends.

The new legal battle promises to be explosive with Sobhraj`s battery of lawyers having dug up several sensational revelations from old court records that are likely to throw serious doubts on the prosecution`s case.

Police allege Sobhraj had sneaked into Kathmandu from Bangkok in 1975, using the tampered passport of a Dutch tourist he befriended in the Thai capital and subsequently killed. During his brief stay in Kathmandu, police say Sobhraj also befriended American backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich and killed her in order to get hold of some precious stones the woman was believed to have bought in India.

But the records gleaned by Sobhraj`s lawyers from the old case file indicate that police had earlier suspected Bronzich`s travelling companion, a Canadian called Laurent Armand Carriere, of having killed her. They also have records to prove that a man was killed in the identical way as Bronzich in the same month.

However, police did not take the second murder into consideration. They did not ascertain who could have murdered the second victim or, indeed, even prove his identity.

Sobhraj`s lawyers will also present evidence during the hearing to substantiate their claim that police falsified so-called evidence to implicate him. The forgery, they say, is blatant because computer programmes like Photoshop were used.

In the 70s, computers had not yet made their appearance in India or Nepal.

Whether he is found guilty or innocent also hinges on the absence of original documents. So far, police have tabled only photocopies, which are not admissible in court as evidence by Nepal`s laws.

The Supreme Court had in the past repeatedly asked police to produce the original documents but to no avail.

The only certainty is that Sobhraj would have to spend even this year in prison fighting his protracted legal battle without it coming to a head.

IANS



First Published: Thursday, August 27, 2009 - 16:00

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