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Court sentences accused in Nepalese journalist's murder case

This statement was originally published on nepalpressfreedom.org on 8 December 2014.

On December 3, 2014, District Judge in Dailekh, Dilli Ratna Shrestha, delivered the final verdict in the 2004 murder of journalist Dekendra Thapa.

Five accused who were remanded in custody - Lachhiram Raj Gharti, Hari Lal Punmagar, Jaya Bahadur Sahi, Bir Bahadur KC and Nirak Gharti Magar - have received prison sentences, although these are not particularly lengthy.

Bir Bahadur received a one-year prison sentence, Lachhhiram one and a half years, while Nirak, Hari Lal and Jaya Bahadur were each sentenced to two years.

Reasoning that Lachhiram and Bir Bahadur completed the jail term during the remand period, the Court ordered the district jail to release them immediately.

Similarly, the jail terms of the other three accused, Nirak, Hari Lal and Jaya Bahadur, will soon be completed.

Four other accused are still absconding, and their case will be pending. The fugitives in question are Bam Bahadur Khadka (Mukti), Bam Bahadur Khadka (Arun), Keshav Khadka and Bhaktiram Lamichhane.

Freedom Forum welcomes the verdict, but maintains the stand that in the name of transitional period and the Truth and Reconciliation Act, the court verdict is slack having opted for the release of the murderers rather than harsher punishment. As a result, the verdict will not help reduce the fear among journalistic community, nor the impunity that's reigning in the country. The prison sentences handed down to the accused were surprisingly short. The murder should have been punished in a strong manner so as to discourage any further violations.

Moreover, Freedom Forum demands that the government arrest the absconding accused and mete the necessary punishment.

Background

The district attorney of Dailekha on January 28, 2013 had filed a murder case against nine district cadres and leaders of the Maoists parties (ruling UCPN-Maoist, and breakaway faction CPN-Maoist) in the district court
Dailekh following the due investigation and establishing proofs on their involvement in the murder of journalist Dekendra Thapa.

Those filed cases against were- Lachhiram Ghartimagar, 45, of Dwari-1, Nirak Bahadur Ghartimagar,41, of Baluwatar-9, Bir Bahadur KC,42, of Baluwatar-4, Hari Lal Punmagar,49, of Dwari-3, Jay Bahadur Shahi of Raniban-1, Bam Bahadur Khadka Arun and Keshav Khadka of Chhiudipusakot-1, Bam Bahadur Khadka Mukti of Katti-1 and Baktiram Lamichhane of Dwari-1.

Despite frequent pressures on the district attorney of Dailekh to halt the investigation by the government (even by the Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai and Attorney General Mukti Pradhan), the nine accused behind murder were taken to the court which created hope of justice among the victim's family and the entire Nepali media.

After eight years of murder that five among nine allegedly involved in abduction and subsequent killing of journalist Dekendra Thapa were arrested on January 4, 2013.

The District Police Office, Dailekh arrested five persons all belonging to then Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Still, four are the district level leaders and cadres of the ruling Unified Community Party of Nepal (Maoist), and one of the breakaway faction, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

They are Lachhiram Gharti Magar of Dwari VDC-1, Bir Bahadur KC of Baluwatar VDC-7, Nirak Bahadur Gharti Magar of Baluwatar-9, and Harilal Pun Magar of Dwari VDC-3, and Jay Bahadur Shahi, a resident of Raniban VDC-1.

Journalist Thapa was abducted on June 26, 2004 and found killed later. Thapa was the reporter with the Radio Nepal from Dailekh, a far-western region of Nepal when he was abducted.

Local reporter to the Radio Nepal, journalist Thapa was abducted and subsequently killed by the UCPN-Maoist (then CPN-Maoist) cadres on August 10, 2004. He was abducted from Chhanna Bazar of Bhawani VDC on June 4, 2004.

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