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Nepal Releases Two Top Communist Leaders From House Arrest


Nepal has freed two senior political leaders, detained when the king seized power three months ago. The move comes two days after the king ended a state of emergency.

Nepal's royal government announced Monday that two leaders of the country's biggest communist group, the United Marxist-Leninists, were freed from house arrest Sunday.

General Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) Madhav Kumar Nepal, left, talks with journalists in Katmandu, Nepal, Monday, May 2, 2005
Madhav Kumar Nepal and Amrit Kumar Bohara had been prevented from going out, communicating with the outside world or receiving anything other than government-sanctioned news stories.

The government's decision to free the men comes two days after the king formally lifted a state of emergency imposed when he took over power on February first.

Backed by the military, the king dismissed the government, arrested scores of officials and activists, and censored the media.

Despite Sunday's releases, human rights groups say scores of low-ranking officials and activists remain in detention.

Lok Raj Baral is executive chairman of the Nepal Center of Contemporary Studies. He says it is doubtful the king intends to restore democratic freedoms, since many restrictions remain in place.

"The king lifted the emergency just to show that things are going to be changed. … Of course, some people might be released," Mr. Baral says. "… But, unless things will change in a substantive manner, it is really difficult for others to support it."

But the lifting of the decree has already resulted in the largest demonstration since the king seized power.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital, Kathmandu, Sunday to demand the restoration of democratic freedoms and the release of all detainees.

The king has said he was compelled to take over power because the government had failed to prepare for parliamentary elections or quell a communist insurgency that has claimed more than 11,000 lives since 1996.

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