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Nepalese Police Arrest Anti-Government Demonstrators

  • Patricia Nunan

Police in Nepal's capital have arrested at least six demonstrators trying to hold the first major anti-government rally since King Gyanendra took over the government last week. It is the latest blow to Nepal's political opposition, which has largely been silenced since the king's actions.

Rights activist Laxmi Pariyar stood among a crowd of journalists and on-ookers in central Kathmandu Thursday, at the location of a planned demonstration.

Suddenly, Ms. Pariyar unfurls a small banner and begins shouting slogans, calling for the repeal of the king's decision to take over the government and for human rights to be protected.

Moments later, police bundled her into a waiting van and left.

Ms. Pariyar was among at least six activists arrested during what had been promised to be the first major anti-government demonstration since King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency last week.

The activists are angry about the king's decision to dismiss the government. He has put political leaders and rights activists under house arrest, censored the media, cut off telecommunications, deployed troops to the streets of the capital and made it illegal to criticize the government or the military.

Despite the crackdown, rights workers early this week announced plans for Thursday's demonstration. Dozens of police were waiting - they not only arrested those who dared to protest, but also blocked bystanders and other protesters from the area.

Suresh Chandra Pokhrel is the vice chairman of the Human Rights and Peace Society, called HURPES. Standing in a doorway, he was grabbed by police and dragged away moments after he began speaking to journalists, prompting shouts from onlookers.

"We strongly condemn the arrest of HURPES members and other human rights activists. I can say that only - we strongly condemn," he said.

The international community has largely condemned King Gyanendra's actions. He says he acted because Nepal's political parties had failed to organize elections or end a conflict with Maoist insurgents, which has ravaged Nepal's countryside for nine years.

On Thursday, the government released some senior politicians who had been detained, but activists say dozens are still being held.

Leaders of Nepal's political parties say they are meeting secretly. They want the international community to help them force the king to reinstate the government, hold peace talks with the rebels and organize elections.