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Report into journalist's 2004 death identifies suspects, calls for government action

(FNJ/IFEX) - On 15 June 2008, FNJ's Dailekh chapter released a report on its investigation into the 10 August 2004 killing of journalist Dekendra Raj Thapa. Dekendra Raj Thapa was a resident of Narayan municipality, Naya Bazaar, Dailekh, a member of FNJ's Dailekh chapter, a district correspondent for Radio Nepal and a district advisor for the organisation Human Rights and Peace Society (HURPES).

The investigative team was comprised of FNJ's Dailekh chapter president, Bishnu Prasad Sharma; the Dailekh district representative of the human rights organisation Informal Sector Service Center (INSEC), Naman Kumar Shahi; and local journalists Yam Prasad Sharma and Manjul Adhikari. The team conducted its research from 12 to 14 June 2008.

According to the report, on the occasion of his murder, Dekendra Raj Thapa was collecting information on a story, together with journalists Harihar Singh Rathour and Kamal Neupane. The three had traveled from the district headquarters to Tili to interview Maoists about the supply of drinking water to the district headquarters. On 25 June 2004, while returning from this assignment, Maoists stopped Dekendra Raj Thapa, saying they had questions to ask him, and abducted him.

His abductors took him to Bhawani, in the same district, and killed him at the Nepal National Primary School of Dwari on 10 August 2004, by hanging him by his legs and beating him with sticks. His murder was allegedly overseen by the then militia-commander Bam Bahadur Khadkha, alias "Mukti", who is now working as a distributor for the Maoists militia in Nepalgunj. Other local Maoists cadres were also involved in the assassination, the report claims.

The Maoists have repeatedly asserted that Dekendra Raj Thapa died from high blood pressure. They have not provided any information as to the whereabouts of the journalist's corpse. Instead, they have threatened locals against speaking about or inquiring further into the matter. However, in response to the repeated appeals of the investigation team, local residents and eyewitnesses have courageously chosen to speak about the killing and the burial place of the corpse.

The investigation team urges the government of Nepal to form a high-level committee without delay to investigate the journalist's murder, and to offer justice to the victim's family by punishing the guilty.

The team has also recommended to FNJ's central office that it send an investigative team to Dekendra Raj Thapa's alleged burial place and have the remains subjected to DNA testing.

Updates the Dakendra Raj Thapa case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/60797

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