Team Sobhraj asks Nepal to ensure client confidentiality

November 20th, 2008 - 2:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 20 (IANS) Stung by the curb imposed by Nepal’s prison authorities on visitors for Charles Sobhraj, the celebrity prisoner’s team of lawyers has asked Nepal’s government to respect the law of the land that ensures prisoners’ access to lawyers with the protection of confidentiality.Nepali lawyer Shakuntala Thapa, who joined Sobhraj’s formidable army of lawyers this year after her daughter Nihita announced her engagement to Sobhraj, has petitioned Nepal’s attorney-general Raghav Lal Vaidya, drawing his attention to an old case in which the state says accused persons in custody and prison can discuss their cases with their lawyers with the protection of privacy and confidentiality.

“Last winter, a man called Som Prasad Luitel filed a public interest litigation, asking the Supreme Court to order police and prison authorities to allow prisoners to meet their lawyers and discuss their cases in confidence,” Thapa told IANS.

“However, the then attorney-general told the apex court in reply that the constitution of Nepal and the international covenants to which Nepal is a signatory already guarantees such rights.”

Now Thapa has drawn the government’s attention to the alleged violation of the rights in Sobhraj’s case.

“Only five lawyers are allowed to visit Sobhraj,” she said. “For each visit, we are allowed 10 minutes which is not sufficient to discuss a case as intricate as his.”

Thapa is also objecting to the prison authorities’ diktat that the lawyers discuss their defence with Sobhraj in full public glare.

“We have to sit three feet away while surrounded by other prisoners, policemen and informers in plainclothes,” she said angrily. “There are confidential things lawyers need to discuss with their clients. We have neither privacy nor harmonious surroundings.”

The petition is also being sent to Nepal’s top human rights body, the National Human Rights Commission, UN rights agency OHCHR (Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Nepal Bar Association.

The new crusade comes with Sobhraj scheduled to be taken to court for a critical hearing next month.

The astute French national is fighting a bolt-from-the-blue life sentence for murder.

Sobhraj, who was never convicted by any court for murder despite hundreds of media reports about his alleged “serial-killing” of western tourists, is challenging the 20-year jail term for the slaying of an American woman in 1975.

His five-year stay in Kathmandu’s dismal Central Jail since his arrest from a casino in 2003 has not been able to sap his spirit.

Sobhraj adheres to his statement that he never came to Nepal before 2003 and had no role in the killing of American Jo Bronzich, who, he says, could have been murdered by an international drug cartel.

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