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Abducted journalist murdered, reveal Maoists after national protests by FNJ; two journalists injured, one seriously

(FNJ/IFEX) - Maoists have finally admitted that their cadres kidnapped and killed FNJ member Birendra Shah, who had been missing since 5 October 2007. A report of the Maoist committee investigating the abduction was released at a press conference held on 5 November; it states that journalist Shah was killed on the same day of his abduction.

The report says journalist Shah was abducted on the instructions of Lal Bahadur Chaudhary, district committee member and area leader of the Maoist party. Kundan Faujdar and Ram Yekbal Sahani helped Chaudhary abduct Shah and later shot him to death. Faujdar and Sahani buried Shah in a jungle between the villages of Juguwa and Kakari in the Bara district, 160 kilometres south of Kathmandu.

The Maoist report was made public at the party headquarters in Kathmandu and mentions that Chaudhary targeted Shah due to a personal vendetta against the journalist.

The FNJ strongly condemns this heinous crime against press freedom and freedom of expression and calls on the authorities to book the guilty without delay. The FNJ urges the Maoists to help the authorities find the guilty. It also reminds the Maoist leadership about its numerous commitments to press freedom. The FNJ also expresses its deep condolences to the bereaved family.

The Maoists' announcement was made the day after protests by FNJ chapters across the country over Shah's abduction, and earlier meetings by the FNJ with government and Maoist party officials. The protests were met with police brutality. Fourteen journalists were arrested while participating in the protests, and police violence resulted in two of them being injured; one of the journalists is still in hospital.

On 4 November the FNJ organised a peaceful sit-in protest at the southern gate of Singhadurbar, the national government's secretariat, in Kathmandu, to pressure the government to make Shah's whereabouts and condition known. Police reacted with violence, and arrested fourteen of the participating journalists at 1:30 p.m. (local time). The police actions left two journalists injured: Deepak Rijal, reporter for the "Samacharpatra" daily newspaper, sustained serious head injuries and is still being treated at the Kathmandu Model Hospital, while journalist Kedar Koirala sustained injuries to his hand.

The following journalists were arrested: FNJ vice president Gangadhar Parajuli; FNJ Treasurer Hemanta Kafle; FNJ Kathmandu chapter president Yuvraj Bidrohi; and journalists Kedar Koirala, Navaraj Chalise, Dinesh Acharya, Ram Kumar Chettri, Ram Chandra Silwal, Gagan Bista, Yadhav Joshi, Deepak Pandey, Rimesh Shrestha, Santosh Neupane and Laxman Karki. They were detained at the Mahendra Police Club, Brikutimandap, Kathmandu, and were released after one and a half hours in custody.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist leader Prachanda had committed themselves to making public Shah's whereabouts within three days during their separate meetings with FNJ delegates on 30 and 31 October, respectively.

Various FNJ chapters across the country had also organized protests at Dhankuta, Chitwan, Bhojpur, Morang, Nawalparasi, Sankhuwasava, Bara, Sarlahi, Dhanusha, Makwanpur, Kaski, Surkhet, Mahottari and Doti.

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