Sobhraj's lawyer seeks quick trial

Updated on Feb 11, 2008 01:11 PM IST
With his new trial scheduled to start from Wednesday, a grim Charles Sobhraj's firebrand lawyer has asked Nepal's top judge to give him "immediate attention" and a "quick release".
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IANS | BySudeshna Sarkar, Kathmandu

With his new trial scheduled to start from Wednesday, a grim Charles Sobhraj's firebrand lawyer has asked Nepal's top judge to give him "immediate attention" and a "quick release".

Paris-based maverick lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who earlier wrote to Nepal's King Gyanendra and, recently, to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, saying her client was the victim of prejudice and trumped-up charges, has now sent her plea to Nepal's Chief Justice Kedar Prasad Giri.

Coutant-Peyre says Sobhraj, who was slapped with a life term in Nepal for the murder of an American tourist in 1975, is innocent.

According to her, though there was no evidence, Sobhraj was found guilty due to his reputation in the 1970s.

She also points out that the 64-year-old has been tried for four years in Nepali, a language he doesn't know, without being provided with an interpreter.

Coutant-Peyre has also told the judge that Sobhraj's trial, which was often delayed due to holidays and clerical errors, violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that says nobody can be sentenced unless proven guilty through material and concrete evidence, and that judicial proceedings would take place within a "reasonable time limit".

The lawyer's concern comes after Sobhraj, who has been fighting the 20-year jail term from 2004 was told by court the final hearing would be announced in December but the judges hearing his final appeal in the Supreme Court instead decided to re-open a fake passport case against him that in the past had already been dismissed by two lower courts.

Sobhraj says he doesn't mind if the apex court finds him guilty but he wants a quick trial. If he loses the final appeal, he is ready to fight it in the International Court of Justice.

Last year he threatened to go on a hunger strike if the fresh trial date was not issued soon. He had his way with the court setting the new trial date for February 13. However, it remains to be seen if the trial will actually start on the scheduled date.

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