Sobhraj faces dark DiwaliOctober 20th, 2008 - 6:59 pm ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, Oct 20 (IANS) While the rest of Nepal celebrates Diwali, the festival of lights, it is however going to be a bleak period for Charles Sobhraj, who is fretting at the delay in the Supreme Court resuming his final appeal against the guilty verdict that has put him away behind bars for 20 years.The 64-year-old, who is doing time in Kathmandu’s Central Jail for the murder of an American tourist, Connie Jo Bronzich, in 1975, had been anxious for his trial to resume last Sunday after a long court holiday in honour of Dashain, Nepal’s biggest Hindu festival.
However, fate struck him an unkind blow when the much-awaited day came and went without any hearing on his appeal. Many of the court benches did not convene Sunday due to the new government’s decision to shake up the judiciary by transferring judges and almost 100 cases scheduled to be heard were postponed.
Sobhraj’s appeal has now been deferred to Nov 2 since the Tihar (Diwali) holidays fall in between.
The French national’s lawyers feel they can wrap up the case after just three more hearings and Sobhraj was expecting the final judgement by December.
However, now with the courts also in a state of flux, there is uncertainty about the final verdict.
Fighting his imprisonment since 2004, Sobhraj no longer possesses the legendary calm and equanimity once attributed to him.
His morale is also singularly low, especially after his engagement to a 20-year-old Nepali woman landed him in public and media hostility.
He is also cut up by reports in the Nepali media that he has been trying to escape by staging a jailbreak, the way he did in the 70s.
“I want to go out with a clean chit,” he told IANS in an earlier interview. “I have been fighting this case for years and know police don’t have a shred of evidence. If I had wanted to escape, I would have done it long ago.”
His lawyer Shakuntala Thapa, who is also the mother of his fiancee, says there is a strong suspicion of foul play in the police documents.
“Police say Bronzich’s companion was also killed in the same way and his body was discovered two days before,” she told IANS. “They claim the identification was made by an American acquaintance called Kent, on the basis of the size of the body.
“It’s an absurd way of making an identification since the body was badly burnt and had become shrivelled.”
She also points out that 11 days after Kent had supposedly made the identification, Nepal Police said the body was not claimed by anyone nor could the victim’s identity be ascertained and ordered the corpse to be cremated.
Sobhraj says the second body holds the key to Bronzich’s murder. If it is proved that it is not the body of Bronzich’s Canadian companion Laurent Armand Carriere, then a manhunt should be launched for Carriere as he becomes the most likely suspect.