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Sobhraj confident court will quash conviction

Sobhraj was arrested at a casino in Kathmandu in 2003, and convicted the following year.

india Updated: Jul 03, 2006 18:11 IST

Charles Sobhraj, nicknamed "The Bikini Killer" after being linked to a string of backpacker murders across Asia in the 1970s, says he is confident Nepal's Supreme Court will clear him of a murder conviction at a hearing this week.

Sobhraj was arrested at a casino in Kathmandu in 2003, and convicted the following year of the killing of a US woman on the hippie trail in 1975.

But his lawyers are contesting the verdict before the Supreme Court, saying the evidence against him was fabricated.

"I am sure I am getting out. There is no admissible evidence," the self-taught legal expert and master linguist said in an interview at the prison in downtown Kathmandu ahead of Wednesday's hearing.

Sobhraj was convicted after handwriting analysts concluded that signatures on two hotel registration cards around the time of the murder were his.

His lawyers say the originals were never produced during his trial, only photocopies.

A lower court judge ruled that Sobhraj used the passport of a Dutch man Henricus Bintanja, whom he said had been killed by the accused to enter Nepal in 1975.

While in Nepal, according to the judge, Sobhraj murdered two people, the US woman Connie Joe Brozich and her Canadian boyfriend Laurent Carriere.

Sobhraj was convicted of the murder of Brozich and an appeal court upheld the verdict. He was not charged with the murder of the Canadian.

In the Supreme Court appeal hearing, two justices have called on prosecutors to produce the originals of the hotel documents as well as witnesses in the three-decade-old case.

"There is a need to locate the original copies of the guest registration and explain how the photocopies were made," the justices said in a letter to the Supreme Court.

Sobhraj said he had never been to Nepal before his trip in 2003, which he said was to do research for a French television programme, and that the evidence against him was falsified.

"They (the prosecutors) came to court with the photocopy of the registration cards and it is clear that they had doctored it," he alleged in the crowded visiting room in Kathmandu's central jail.

The half-Vietnamese, half-Indian French national was linked to at least 12 deaths of travellers in the 1970s in Thailand, India and Nepal but was never convicted. Most of the victims were drugged, killed and robbed of their passports and valuables.

Sobhraj was freed from India's Tihar jail in 1997 after being convicted of drugging a busload of French postgraduate students. Indian prosecutors had said he intended to rob them.

Sobhraj has escaped from jails in Greece, Afghanistan and in India in 1986, when he drugged guards with sedative-laced sweets and walked out of Tihar jail. He was caught soon afterwards.

He tried to escape from Kathmandu's central jail in November 2004 but guards uncovered the plot, a prison official said.