No Christmas cheer for Charles Sobhraj as appeal postponed

December 8th, 2008 - 4:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Dec 8 (IANS) Another Christmas will pass for Charles Sobhraj without bringing him any joy as his last appeal against life imprisonment for murder is not going to be resolved by this year-end.The enraged 64-year-old, who is chafing against a crackdown on visitors, that includes his 20-year-old Nepali “wife” Nihita Biswas, by Kathmandu’s jail authorities, will now have to endure the additional frustration of Nepal’s Supreme Court Monday postponing yet again the final hearing on his case that has been hanging fire for three years now.

“Sobhraj’s case was scheduled to come up for hearing today,” said Til Prasad Shrestha, a spokesman of the apex court. “However, since it is meant to be heard by the same judges and one of them is on leave, it has been postponed.”

It is a case of history repeating itself.

Around the same time last year, Sobhraj’s battle against the 20-year jail sentence for the murder of American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich in the bygone hippie days of 1975, was heading for resolution in Nepal’s top court when the judges hearing the appeal decided to re-open a much less serious case of passport forgery, though that had been dismissed by two earlier courts.

Now, even if the court reschedules a fresh trial date within this month, technically it is near impossible for the judges to deliver their verdict the same day.

Sobhraj will have to spend Christmas as well as New Year’s Eve in his dank cell in Kathmandu’s Central Jail with his plan to fly to Paris and celebrate with his family and friends coming to naught again.

Though the prosecution and even Bronzich’s lawyers have been able to produce little evidence to nail Sobhraj, his past reputation has come back to haunt him. Given the public sentiment against the man painted as a calculating serial killer by the tabloid media, the judges will have to face an outcry if they pronounce him innocent and set him free.

Given the risk, it seems a safer thing to prolong the case as long as possible.

Sobhraj, who points out that he was never found guilty of murder by any court before his sensational arrest in Kathmandu in 2003, is apparently losing his old vigour that kept a bunch of wannabe biographers at bay in the past for fear of punishing lawsuits.

Though his lawyers have moved ministries, judicial authorities and even UN agencies, they have not been able to hasten the trial or even wrest the visiting rights in prison that were curtailed following the blaze of publicity that came after the announcement of his engagement to Nihita.

They have not also been able to stop his former friend Farrukh Dhondy from writing a book that draws on his crime career and background and are yet to slap Dhondy with the defamation suit that Sobhraj had threatened.

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