Luck forsakes Sobhraj in Nepal
Mar 21, 2007 - 1:04:38 PM

Kathmandu, March 21 - In the 70s, he was notorious for escaping from the toughest prisons in Asia and being one step ahead of law-enforcing agencies. But three decades later, luck seems to be running out for 'bikini killer' Charles Sobhraj with sheer circumstances upsetting his final bid for freedom.

Sought by the police of several countries, Sobhraj, who has been involved in jewel heists, drug smuggling, passport forgery and alleged killings of 20 tourists, was arrested from a casino in Kathmandu four years ago.

Since his imprisonment in 2004, Sobhraj has hired top-notch judges both in Nepal and abroad to fight his legal battles. However, he lost his first appeal and since then, his final appeal in Nepal's Supreme Court has been delayed repeatedly.

Strikes, a common occurrence in Nepal, and long public holidays caused the hearing to be deferred in the past. Then an error by court clerks who put his case before the wrong bench added to the delay. Finally, the hearing, scheduled to start Wednesday, is once again likely to be delayed.

By a strange quirk of fate, the public prosecutor fighting the case on behalf of the government was sent abroad for training. Tika Bahadur Hamal, the state attorney, is scheduled to return from Australia Wednesday.

It is unlikely that he will be able to arrive in court in time to plead the case, which means the hearing will be delayed yet again.

Court sources said if deferred, the trial would start only after a month.

With Nepal in fresh turmoil and traders calling an indefinite strike since Monday, it remains to be seen if Sobhraj's trial will begin even next month.

The chips have been steadily piling up against the wily and charismatic French crime maestro ever since his arrest. In 2004, the Kathmandu district court found him guilty of the murder of Connie Jo Bronzich, an American backpacker who came to Nepal from India in 1975.

According to police, Sobhraj, who was living in Bangkok, murdered a Dutch tourist and used his passport to come to Kathmandu, where he killed Bronzich.

Despite Sobhraj's assertion that he had never come to Nepal earlier, the court gave him a life sentence, putting him behind bars for 20 years.

'I blame no one,' a downcast Sobhraj had told IANS after a similar delay in the past. 'It's my luck.'

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