Sobhraj’s conviction upheld by Nepal Supreme Court (Lead)

July 30th, 2010 - 6:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, July 30 (IANS) The conviction and life imprisonment awarded to Charles Sobhraj in a 35-year-old murder case was upheld by Nepal’s Supreme Court Friday.
A division bench of Justices Ram Kumar Prasad Shah and Gauri Dhakal upheld the 20-year imprisonment handed over to Sobhraj, The Himalayan Times reported.

The bench, which last year began hearing Sobhraj’s appeal against the life sentence, wrapped up nearly eight months of arguments by the state as well as Sobhraj’s formidable team of lawyers June 23.

The resurrection of the 1975 murder has been probably the most sensational Nepal has ever witnessed.

In December 1975, two badly charred bodies were found in different parts of Kathmandu valley.

The body of the woman, who was first stabbed to death, was identified as that of Connie Jo Bronzich, whose husband and boyfriends had died under violent circumstances in the US.

The second body, that of a male, could not be identified. Police conjectured it could have been that of a Canadian tourist, Laurent Armand Carriere, who was with Bronzich in Kathmandu.

Police say Sobhraj came to Nepal from Bangkok the same year, befriended Bronzich for some gems she had bought in India and killed her.

Sobhraj says he never came to Nepal before 2003, when he arrived as a bona fide entrepreneur to explore various ventures, ranging from making documentaries for his Paris-based Gentleman Films company to starting a mineral water business.

On Sep 17, 16 days after his arrival, a local daily carried his photograph, which alerted the police who traced him to a casino and arrested him.

Initially, police charged him with having come to Nepal in 1975 on a forged passport.

But as the court acquitted him, he was re-arrested from the court premises and charged with the murder of Bronzich.

The Sobhraj case created sensation after sensation with reports that he was trying to stage a jailbreak, which he hotly denies, and then that he had tied the knot inside the Central Prison in Kathmandu with a Nepali woman more than 40 years his junior.

Then his case was taken up by his Nepali wife Nihita Biswas’ mother, Shakuntala Thapa, a senior Supreme Court lawyer.

In the course of researching the police evidence, Thapa has told the Supreme Court that there were over 1,000 “fake” documents sent by a retired Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg, which police presented as evidence sent by Interpol.

Knippenberg was based in Bangkok when police suspected Sobhraj of being behind the disappearance of western tourists and became involved in the cases after Bintanja, a Dutch citizen, and his fiancée went missing.

Nepal has been the only country to convict Sobhraj of murder despite allegations that he was a serial killer. In India, he was convicted of robbery but acquitted of murder.

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