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Dozens of activists held ahead of Nepal protests

Police detained a group of 50 activists who defied a ban on rallies in the capital to express their support for the planned general strike.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2006 11:20 IST

Police detained dozens of opposition politicians in Kathmandu on Wednesday in raids on their homes aimed at thwarting their plans for an anti-government general strike this week, officials and activists said.

Police also detained a group of 50 activists who defied a ban on rallies in the capital to gather and express their support for the planned four-day general strike starting on Thursday.

An alliance of Nepal's seven major political parties has called for the protests to urge King Gyanendra to restore democracy following his seizure of control more than a year ago.

Nepal's communist rebels have backed the protests after meeting with opposition politicians, vowing not to attack in the capital during the strike.

The rebel's pledge has undermined the government's public claims that it must crackdown on the protesters to protect the capital from attack by would-be communist infiltrators, but the crackdowns have gone forward unabated.

"This is state terrorism, but we will not be scared by the crackdown," said Prakash Man Singh of the Nepali Congress Democratic party.

The raids on the homes of political organizers were launched early on Wednesday in hopes of heading off this week's rallies and general strike, a top government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Singh, of the Nepali Congress Democratic party, said authorities targeted key organisers of the protests, and that more than two-dozen members of the party were detained, he said. Khadga Prasad Oli of the Communist Party of Nepal said three senior leaders of the party were taken by police, while a dozen members were also detained.

Also on Wednesday, police detained a group of 50 lawyers, journalists, teachers and doctors who gathered in Kathmandu to back the general strike.

The group had marched about 50 meters in defiance of the ban. Police in riot gear quickly moved in and stopped them.

The detained activists were taken to police stations, but it was not immediately clear how long they would be held.

Gyanendra sacked an interim government and seized direct control over the government over a year ago.

Besides cracking down on activists and politicians, the government has banned protests and rallies in the capital and restricted road transport in a bid to prevent this week's rally.

It has also warned that force would be used to break up any protest.