Police arrest senior opposition leader in Nepal

K Sitaula, spokesman for Nepali Congress party, was picked up from his home in Kathmandu and detained under Public Security Act.
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Updated on Feb 22, 2006 12:35 PM IST
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None | ByAssociated Press, Kathmandu

Police raided the house of a senior opposition leader who has been instrumental in organising anti-government protests and arrested him on Wednesday, officials said.

Krishna Sitaula, spokesman for the Nepali Congress party, was picked up from his home in downtown Kathmandu and detained for three months under the Public Security Act, a government notice said.

Sitaula was arrested as a preventative measure and because he was considered a threat to public safety, said an official at the district administration office that ordered the arrest.

Sitaula has been one of the leading figures in the protests by the alliance of seven major political parties against King Gyanendra's direct rule over this Himalayan nation.

Family members at his home said police burst into his home in the morning and handed over papers saying he was under arrest.

They only found out later he would be detained for three months. "We condemn the arrest of the leader who was just freed by the Supreme Court. We demand the government immediately release him," said Shobhakar Parajuli, secretary of the Nepali Congress.

Sitaula had been arrested on February 10 while trying to board a plane at Katmandu airport during an earlier crackdown on political dissidents.

He was among 17 politicians and activists freed on orders of the Supreme Court on Monday, after the panel said the government did not have a valid reason for detaining them.

Though dozens of politicians and activists have been freed on court orders in recent days, at least 200 remain in jail.

The royalist government had rounded up hundreds of dissidents during raids on their homes and offices or crackdowns on protest rallies against the king since he grabbed power last year.

Gyanendra seized control of the government on February 1, 2005, promising to crush a communist insurgency, and hold parliamentary elections within three years.

But he has drawn heavy protests from the country's main political parties and criticism from foreign governments, which have urged him to implement democracy immediately.

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