UN saves Sobhraj from ’stalker’

August 11th, 2008 - 7:09 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 11 (IANS) Fighting a protracted legal battle in Nepal to shake off a 20-year murder sentence, yesteryear’s “Bikini Killer” Charles Sobhraj has had his first break with the UN rescuing him from a “stalker” who has been pursuing him for over two decades. Sobhraj, doing time in Kathmandu’s Central Jail for the murder of American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975, says he is being stalked by a retired Dutch diplomat, Herman Knippenberg.

The 64-year-old master smuggler and forgery specialist, who also faces unproved allegations of serial killings, fell foul of Knipperberg in the ’70s when both were living in Bangkok. Knippenberg received a complaint about the disappearance of two Dutch tourists, which reportedly led him on to Sobhraj’s trail.

“It is a matter of ego with him,” Sobhraj told IANS about Knippenberg’s “obsession” with him. “Though he has retired now, he is still feeding Nepal Police false information to keep me behind bars for a murder I did not commit.”

Sobhraj, who could not be convicted of murder in the other countries where he had set up a network of organised crime, like India and Thailand, was deserted by luck in 2004 when a Nepali judge found him guilty on the basis of “evidence” that included several books, media reports and printouts from web sites.

One of the web sites - www.sobhrajtheserpent.co.nr - depicts him as a serial murderer who killed over two dozen western tourists.

Complete with photographs of Sobhraj, the victims and investigating police officers, the web site had an air of authenticity, due to the prominently displayed UN and Interpol logos.

Sobhraj says the site was put up by Knippenberg to poison people’s minds against him.

In May this year, his French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre flew in from Paris to complain to the UN’s country director in Nepal, Anne-Isabelle Degryse-Blateau, about the illegal use of the UN logo by a private web site to falsely implicate her client.

The world organisation took up the case and a fortnight ago, UN legal specialist Gael Ollivier sent a letter to Coutant-Peyre, saying the UN Legal Support Office had pointed out the “inappropriate use of the United Nations logo” to the website administrator and asked for its withdrawal.

Heeding the complaint, CO.NR, the Dutch company that had provided the domain, has suspended the website, signifying a victory for the imprisoned Sobhraj.

The victory is especially sweet as the Nepal police framed the murder charge against him on the basis of a “confession” he allegedly made to the Indian police.

Sobhraj says he never made any confession and the document is a fabricated one sent by Knippenberg.

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