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Former Nepalese Prime Minister Jailed for Corruption


Nepal's former prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, has been sentenced to two years in prison by a controversial anti-corruption commission. The verdict triggered protests in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

The powerful anti-corruption commission found former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba guilty of embezzling more than $5 million from a contract to build an access road for a multi-million-dollar drinking-water project.

He, along with a former minister in his administration, was sentenced to two years imprisonment. Both men were also ordered to pay a fine of more than $1 million each.

Mr. Deuba, who was arrested in April, has refused to appoint lawyers or answer the charges. He says the commission is unconstitutional.

The commission was established by King Gyanendra after he fired Mr. Deuba in February and took control of the administration. The king said he wanted to stamp out political corruption and end a Maoist insurgency.

Kanak Dixit, editor of Nepal's Himal newspaper, says the verdict against Mr. Deuba will be seen as politically motivated.

"This anti-corruption commission is seen to be extra constitutional. As a result its verdict will not be seen as legal," he said. "I think it gives in a way a political boost to Mr. Deuba who did not have a great record as a prime minister himself. Nevertheless he is being seen as being politically targeted by the current regime."

Last month, the commission acquitted Mr. Deuba on a separate charge of illegally distributing state money to party supporters.

Political parties have been locked in confrontation with the king since he grabbed power, and arrested hundreds of political activists.

After the sentence against Mr. Deuba was announced, angry supporters demonstrated in front of the commission's office. Police used batons to break up the protests injuring several people.

Political observers say the sentence against Mr. Deuba could intensify protests by political parties who are demanding that the king restore democracy.

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