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Nepal bans all forms of public protest

The move comes ahead of planned protests, marches and rallies in the Capital against King's rule.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2006 20:51 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press

Nepal government on Tuesday banned all forms of public protest in the capital after tightening its anti-terror law, preparing for a crackdown on this week's nationwide anti-monarchy strike by the Opposition.

The opposition vowed to defy the ban.

The country's seven major opposition parties have planned protests, marches and rallies for the four-day strike that starts on Thursday, aiming to pressure King Gyanendra to give up the direct rule that he assumed last year after sacking the government.

The government said in a statement that it had banned "mass meetings, protest rallies and demonstrations in Kathmandu and Lalitpur," a suburb.

Two senior leaders of the Nepali Congress and the United Marxist-Leninist parties, the two main opposition groups, said the protest campaign would continue as planned.

"This is completely illegal. We will defy this. We will go to the streets," UML leader KP Oli told the agency.

"We are responsible political parties, and the government can't put a ban 36 hours before the rallies. We cannot accept this."

The government ban came a day after the government widened the sweep of its anti-terror law to allow anyone in contact with anti-monarchy Maoist rebels to be jailed as a terrorist.

Political leaders said on Tuesday they fear the amended law would be used against them because they have thrown their support behind the rebels' strike, which begins on Thursday and is aimed at pressuring King Gyanendra to give up power that he seized last year after sacking the prime minister.

The alliance of seven opposition parties, meanwhile, hailed an announcement by the rebels to halt attacks in Kathmandu, the capital.

The rebel chief, who goes by the assumed name Prachanda, said on Monday that the decision was made in response to concerns of political parties and civil society groups.

Smaller demonstrations have already started. Twenty students were detained on Tuesday after police fired tear gas and beat pro-democracy protesters with batons, according to student leader Suresh Gautam and a police officer who declined to be identified by name.

Arjun Narsingh of the Nepali Congress, the largest party in Nepal, told the agency on Tuesday that changes in the anti-terror law are an attempt to "threaten and terrorise the opposition parties and the media."

The amended Terrorists and Disruptive Activities Control and Punishment Ordinance define "terrorist accomplices" as those who have any contact with the rebels.

That has raised concerns about party activists and civilians -- who are often coerced into supporting the guerrillas -- and journalists who cover rebel gatherings and interview their leaders.

"This will be another weapon for the government to strike against the media, which is already under many restrictions," said Bishnu Nisthuri, president of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists.

A senior UN official said the government was not giving the parties enough political space for peaceful protests.

"What I hear is not the message I would like to hear from the government, that peaceful protests is a right and should be upheld and security forces should use only absolute minimum force in maintaining law and order," Ian Martin, the Nepal representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Monday.

Under the amended anti-terror law, anyone who disseminates the information about the rebels could face one to three years in prison and fines of up to 50,000 rupees (US$700; euro580).

Human rights groups say hundreds of people have already been detained under the law, which allowed for the detention without charge for up to a year of anyone suspected of sympathising with the communist rebels.

First Published: Apr 04, 2006 20:51 IST