Sobhraj to seek review of murder conviction

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - 13:34

Kathmandu: Charles Sobhraj is seeking a review of the Nepal Supreme Court decision convicting him of the murder of an American tourist and upholding his life sentence.

The 66-year-old`s lawyer in Nepal, Shakuntala Thapa, told IANS she would be meeting him in Kathmandu`s Central Prison Tuesday, where he is serving a 21-year jail term, to discuss the application for a review.

Last month, two Supreme Court judges, Ram Kumar Prasad Shah and Gouri Dhakal, found Sobhraj guilty of having come to Nepal under a fake passport in 1975 and killing American backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich.

Now Sobhraj will seek to have the judgement reviewed by a full bench with at least three judges.

The two apex court judges convicted him on the basis of "confessions" made by him and his accomplice, Marie Andree Leclerc, to the Indian authorities after being arrested in New Delhi in 1976, in which they reportedly admitted they had visited Nepal in 1975. Sobhraj however denies he ever made any such confession.

This will be the reason for his asking Nepal`s judicial authorities for a review of his case that grabbed attention worldwide for almost seven years.

While Thapa is seeking fresh legal redress in Nepal, Sobhraj`s French lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre is seeking the help of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) to get him released and win compensation.

The HRC is a body of independent experts who monitor the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by member states who have signed the pact.

The HCR, for which the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides secretarial services and support, said last month that Sobhraj`s trials in the Kathmandu district court - where he was first found guilty of the murder - and the Patan Appellate Court violated his rights.

It also said Nepal was obliged to provide him with "effective remedy, including the speedy conclusion of the proceedings and compensation".

Coutant-Peyre, who says she will now take up the issue in the European Parliament, said in a press statement that the "decision pronounced by the highest international authority (controlling the obligations states have towards individuals) invalidates the sentencing arbitrarily decided by two judges from the Nepal Supreme Court, hence rendered null and void in view of the blatant and very serious violations of Charles Sobhraj`s rights..."

She said the HRC had noted the violation of Sobhraj`s rights to defense as well as the reversal of burden of proof, in addition to illegal detention by the police for 25 days without access to any legal assistance nor interpreter, and the "inflicting" of an entire judicial process without any translation nor interpreter.

She also emphasised that the HRC had asked Nepal to inform it within 180 days about the measures taken to implement its views.

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First Published: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - 13:34

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