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Suspects in journalist's killing sentenced to life imprisonment

(Freedom Forum/IFEX) - May 31, 2011 - Freedom Forum welcomes the verdict of the Bara District Court on May 30, 2011 of life imprisonment for the two murderers of journalist Birendra Saha. The court also ordered the confiscation of the property of the two accused.

With this court decision, a step has been taken by the State authority to put an end to the culture of impunity in the country and to promote freedom of expression and of the press.

Saha was abducted and murdered on October 5, 2007 by cadres of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, UCPN(M), namely, Managar Giri, Ram Ekbal Sahani, Lal Bahadur Chaudhary, Hare Ram Patel and Kundan Faujdar.

Sahani and Faujdar, under the order of local Maoist leader Chaudhary, abducted Saha, a reporter with Avenues TV, from a local market in Bara; he was subsequently taken to a nearby forest and killed.

Giri and Sahani, who have spent the last two years in judicial custody, were handed down the sentence by Judge Bal Mukunda Dawadi. Three other suspects - all members of UCPN(M) - remain at large. The case against them is pending, said District Attorney Bhuwaneshwor Poudel.

Although the district administration had shown reluctance to arrest the murderers at first, pressure from parliament, triggered by demands from the media and human rights sectors, including international media missions, forced the administration to act.

Following the verdict, Saha's wife, Umarawati, lamented that though two of the killers had been punished, the main accused is still at large.

Umarawati has a son and a daughter.

The abduction and killing of Saha created a furor in the media and human rights community and caused journalists in Nepal to fear for their safety. The sentencing of two of the accused, though late, is a bold step towards ending impunity in the country.

Freedom Forum urges the authorities to intensify their search for the remaining suspects and bring them to justice.

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