Sobhraj to try different tack to prove innocence

September 22nd, 2008 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 22 (IANS) As the five-year-old dramatic trial of Charles Sobhraj, dubbed the ‘Serpent’ and Bikini Killer’ by the tabloid media, gears for a resolution next month, he is set to prove that the American woman he has been accused of killing might have actually fallen victim to an international drug cartel. The 65-year-old French national of Indian origin is serving a life sentence in a Kathmandu prison for the murder of 28-year-old Connie Jo Bronzich.

Sobhraj, who himself is guiding his formidable army of lawyers, including the wife of a senior Maoist MP, will ask the Supreme Court to consider that the American woman was killed by an international drug cartel that ran its network through Thailand to Nepal in the Hippie Era of the 70s.

Poring over the “evidence” the prosecution had presented to show that Sobhraj came to Nepal in 1975 using the passport of a Dutch tourist, befriended Bronzich and killed her to grab the supposedly valuable gems she had bought in India, Sobhraj, now the best known prisoner in Kathmandu’s Central Jail, came across a glaring loophole.

On Oct 19, when his last fight against the “guilty” verdict comes up for hearing at the apex court, his lawyers are going to ask for permission to read out excerpts from the book the prosecution had tabled as evidence: “The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj”. The book has been written by Richard Neville and Julie Clarke, two journalists who had befriended Sobhraj during his imprisonment in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail in the early 70s.

Read carefully, the book could well upset the premises drawn by the police and prosecution.

Bronzich had a documented drug habit and her close associates were also recorded drug users.

Her husband died of a reported drug overdose and her boyfriend, for whom she had left her husband, also subsequently died a mysterious death, suspected to have been a drug overdose.

Less than a fortnight after her boyfriend’s death, Bronzich arrived in Nepal via India.

The book says her tourist acquaintances during the trip told police that Bronzich had tried to persuade them to accompany her to a shady place in Kathmandu’s Freak Street so that she could buy drugs. But they refused.

One of them also told police that when they were taken to the police station to identify Bronzich’s possessions, she saw a handwritten note that instructed Bronzich to go to Dhulikhel town outside Kathmandu where a “package” awaited her.

Also, among the items in the dead woman’s possession, as recorded by police, there was a book, “How To Use Drugs”, a virtual manual for drug users.

Sobhraj’s lawyers, who say he never came to Nepal in the 70s and was falsely implicated during his 2003 visit due to his past reputation, are going to raise the possibility that Bronzich was a drug courier who fled her homeland after she irked the cartel, who could have killed her boyfriend, if not her husband too.

The theory, seemingly supported by the book, is that she could have been pursued by the cartel in Nepal and killed by it. It remains to be seen if the judges will buy the new theory.

However, Sobhraj’s lawyers are pinning their hopes on the fact that even if the new explanation is rejected, the judges will at least realise that the Nepal segment in the book, which Nepal police claim contains Sobhraj’s admission that he came to Nepal in 1975, is based on the statements made by the then investigating police officer C.B. Rai and not Sobhraj’s.

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