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Political parties brace for protest rally against King

The protesters plan to march from five locations around the capital, Kathmandu, and merge into a single mass rally.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2006 15:10 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press

Nepal's major political parties prepared on Saturday for a large weekend protest rally amid growing criticism of the king, who has experienced a number of recent setbacks to his authoritarian rule.

Sunday's planned rally follows recent decisions by Nepal's Supreme Court to free dozens of political detainees and scrap an anti-corruption body that was allegedly used by the royalist government to crack down on opponents.

Emboldened by the court's rulings, political parties hope the rally will be the biggest since King Gyanendra seized power a year ago.

More than 10,000 protesters were expected at the rally, said Shobhakar Parajuli, a spokesman for the Nepali Congress party, which is among seven major parties that have formed an alliance to push for democracy.

The protesters plan to march from five locations around the capital, Kathmandu, and merge into a single mass rally, Parajuli said.

The demonstration marks Democracy Day, which celebrates a popular movement of the 1980s that forced the previous king to establish a multiparty democracy.

On Friday, the court ordered the release of 37 political detainees, including senior party officials.

Judges Pramananda Jha and Rajendra Koirala ruled that they did not find any reason for the detentions and ordered the government to immediately free them.

The Supreme Court's rulings over the past week show the king's activities are "nothing but illegal," Parajuli said.

"This is a victory for those who believe in democracy. We will continue our struggle for democracy and immediately return to our movement," said Raghuji Pant of the Communist Party of Nepal, who was detained in a police raid on Feb 1.

Hundreds have been jailed since King Gyanendra seized power a year ago and declared a state of emergency, some for a few days and others for several months.

Also last week, the court released several other detainees and scrapped the Royal Commission for Corruption Control, which had jailed several political leaders on bribery charges in an apparent bid to prevent them from mobilising opinion against the king's direct rule.

Gyanendra said he took power to quell a communist insurgency and wipe out corruption in the government that alienated a majority of Nepal's 27 million people.

But the move sparked an alliance between the rebels and the seven political parties to hasten Gyanendra's downfall, and fighting between the guerrillas and security forces has since intensified.

First Published: Feb 18, 2006 15:10 IST