Sobhraj to fight film with a film in Nepal apex court

April 2nd, 2008 - 8:10 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 2 (IANS) Charles Sobhraj stepped out of his dark, chilly cell in Kathmandu’s tightly guarded central prison Wednesday after almost six months to make a rare appearance in Nepal’s Supreme Court and plan his next strategy for securing freedom. The 64-year-old, who is fighting a life term for murder in the sleepy Himalayan nation, has now got to grapple with books and films as well.

Sent to prison for 20 years after a Kathmandu court found him guilty of murdering an American tourist in 1975, the man whose crime exploits made news all over the world in the 1970s, finds his final appeal for freedom in the apex court thwarted by the state and the victim’s lawyers, who have flooded the court with books and film tapes.

The prosecution claims these contain evidence that Sobhraj killed over 20 people and that these are a record of various confessions he made to various journalists during his stay in India’s Tihar Jail.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the state and the victim, American Connie Jo Bronzich, showed four film tapes to the two judges hearing the final appeal, and argued that these contained evidence about Sobhraj’s murderous past.

Besides Discovery Channel’s documentary “The Serpent”, which is part of its “Interpol Investigates” series of crime dramas, the other three were “Sobhraj, or How To Be Friends With A Serial Killer” made in 2004 a year after Sobhraj was arrested from a casino in Kathmandu, a news clip from ABC News, and a folder of crime scene photographs put together by the Nepal police in 1975 when Bronzich’s badly burnt body was found on the way to Kathmandu’s airport.

Though the prosecution had initially tabled eight CDs before the judges, they are pinning their faith on “Sobhraj…” by Jan Wellmann and Anil Goel and also featuring Sobhraj and Bronzich’s lawyers.

Its highlight is an interview with a tourist, David Wilmoth, who says he was on the same flight to Nepal in 1975 from Bangkok with Sobhraj and struck up a friendship with him, thereby casting doubt on Sobhraj’s claim that he had never come to Nepal before 2003.

Sobhraj, who denies having made any murder confession to anyone, sat impassively through the screening of the tapes in the coyurtroom.

“I am asking my lawyers to file an application that the film they did not show today be also shown,” he told IANS, while being escorted back to his prison, surrounded by policemen and handcuffed.

The French national, who knows the crime laws of Nepal now like the back of his own hand, is asking his lawyers that the judges be also shown the 1989 documentary, “Shadow of the Cobra”.

The film by Mark Joffe, he says, will establish his innocence.

It shows a line up of eyewitnesses who pass him by without recognizing him.

The police say in 1975, the needle of suspicion for Bronzich’s murder fell on a suave, oriental-looking Sobhraj.

However, the dead girl’s associates in Nepal failed to identify Sobhraj as the man who was seen befriending Bronzich.

“They paraded a girl thrice,” Sobhraj said. “But each time she failed to make an identification.”

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