Sobhraj braces for battle of books in Nepal

March 19th, 2008 - 11:02 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of National Geographic
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 19 (IANS) Books and film deals helped Charles Gurmukh Sobhraj aka “The Serpent” and “Bikini Killer” amass a colossal fortune and live a life of luxury in Paris after he retired from a career in crime in the 1990s. Now, ironically, it’s books and films that are posing the gravest threat to his bid for freedom from Kathmandu’s Central Prison as evidence against him. He has been in the jail since 2003 after being arrested and sentenced guilty for the murder of an American backpacker in the 1970s.

When his final trial in Nepal’s Supreme Court reopens April 2, Sobhraj will appear personally during the hearings to battle the prosecution’s arguments to uphold his life imprisonment.

The 64-year-old, suffering from a continuing eye infection and missing his family, says the state lawyers have perpetrated a Himalayan fraud on the court, wittingly or unwittingly.

The prosecution contends that an Australian, David Wilmoth, had taken the same flight to Kathmandu from Bangkok in 1976 as Sobhraj, sitting next to him and striking up a quick friendship.

If that is true, it strikes down Sobhraj’s assertion that he never came to Nepal before 2003 and provides strong circumstantial evidence to nail him for the murder of Connie Jo Bronzich, whose stabbed and badly burnt body was found on the way to the Kathmandu airport.

The state attorneys are contending that Wilmoth, who moved to the US, came across a book in 1979.

“Serpentine”, the book on Sobhraj’s exploits written by Thomas Thompson, carried the photograph of Sobhraj, whom Wilmouth immediately recognised as the passenger who had chatted him up on the way to Kathmandu.

“It’s a crude fraud,” Sobhraj, an expert on forgery himself, told IANS.

“‘Serpentine’ was first published in 1980. Also, it has no photographs.”

He will also attack the prosecution’s submission of a document, purportedly from an Indian court, that attributes 11 murders to him, including two in Nepal.

“The prosecution says it is a copy of the documents tabled before Delhi district court judge Joginder Nath in the 1970s, detailing the ‘global murders’ committed by me,” says a dismissive Sobhraj.

“The so-called document is a computer printout. In the 1970s, there was no computer. All official documents came from typewriters.”

There is a third paper submitted by the Nepal prosecution that he says boomerangs on them instead of indicting him.

“They also submitted a CD by National Geographic and called it my confessions before Interpol,” Sobhraj said.

“The computer printout that describes the nature of the CD is an exact match of the court print-out, meaning they came out from the same computer.”

After a court of appeals rejected his “not guilty” plea, Sobhraj is marshalling all his forces for the final battle.

The Supreme Court was to have delivered the final judgement in December.

However, in an inexplicable move, the two judges hearing his final appeal, instead decided to reopen an old passport forgery case against him that was dismissed by two earlier courts.

Police say Sobhraj not only killed Bronzich but her Canadian companion Laurent Armand Carriere as well. But the Carriere case could not be reopened, as the three-decade-old file could not be retrieved.

Sobhraj however says he is innocent, was framed by police and not given a fair trial.

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