Amnesty for some prisoners, but Sobhraj’s hopes dashed

October 5th, 2008 - 2:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Oct 5 (IANS) He had hoped to celebrate Christmas - and freedom - with his girlfriend and little daughter in Paris. But now it turns out Charles Sobhraj, once known as the “Bikini Killer” and “Serpent”, will remain behind bars this festive season.Hopes soared for the 64-year-old, who is fighting a life term for murder in Nepal, this week when his acquaintances told him about the rumour afloat in the Central Jail of Kathmandu where he has been the star inmate since 2003.

The prison grapevine said the new Maoist government, following the tradition of granting amnesty to prisoners on certain occasions, was going to release “all prisoners” this month when Nepal celebrates the festival of Dashain.

“But I will refuse to accept the offer,” Sobhraj had told IANS in a message sent through an intermediary. “I will walk out of my cell only when I am provided a clean chit.”

Forty-eight hours later, it was dismally clear that Sobhraj, convicted for the murder of an American tourist in 1975, was not going to walk out of his cell immediately.

His deep throat had made a mistake.

On Friday, the new government of Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and his cabinet decided to grant amnesty to prisoners to mark Dashain, Nepal’s biggest festival which began this week.

However, not all prisoners would be set free, and certainly not Sobhraj.

The pardon was being given to four prisoners who are above 70 and another 372 who have completed half their sentences.

Sobhraj, who turns 65 next April and has completed only four years of his 20-year jail term, is not eligible even if the government decides to overlook his reputation.

About three years ago, the Serpent, so dubbed because of his past ability to break out of prisons, was hoping for a royal pardon from King Gyanendra, who was petitioned by his French lawyer. However, it was instead given to an Indian from Jammu and Kashmir convicted of murder, who had become Sobhraj’s biggest friend in prison.

Now the disappointed French national with Indian roots will have to start another countdown to Oct 19, when the festivities are over and Nepal’s Supreme Court resumes hearing his final appeal against the life term.

Sobhraj was spotted in a Kathmandu casino five years ago, slapped with the murder of American Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He however claims he had never come to Nepal before 2003 and is contesting the verdict.

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