January 15, 2013
On Sunday, Mukti Pradhan, Nepal’s attorney general, cancelled a scheduled visit to the US, apparently out of fear.
Following the arrest of Nepal Army Col. Kumar Lama by the British police earlier this month – who was seized in the UK over his alleged human rights violations during the decade-long Maoist insurgency – the Maoist-led government seems to be taking precautions to protect its own from the international justice system.
The attorney general has been widely criticized in Nepal and abroad for exerting undue influence to stop prosecution of five Maoist workers charged with the 2004 killing of Dailekh-based journalist Dekendra Thapa. One of the named assailants confessed last week, saying that he and his henchmen had brutally beaten Thapa and ultimately buried him alive.
Nepal’s Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai publicly criticized the arrest of his fellow party members for the crime.
Then, on January 9, the attorney general added further pressure to impede justice by personally blasting the District Public Prosecutor, Dambar Prasad Kafle, for having had the five men arrested in the first place. After “hurled abuses”, Pradhan threatened to fire Kafle if he did not change the confessional statement of the accused. [This is according the EKantipur, which quoted anonymous sources from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in a Jan. 11 article]:
“The Attorney General has abused the District Prosecutor and threatened to finish off three of his generations,” said a senior official at the OAG, requesting anonymity.
Sources further said that Pradhan also mounted pressure on the chief of the Surkhet Appellate Public Prosecutor Office, Man Bahadur Karki, “to not allow the case to move ahead.”
The OAG official also said that Pradhan is planning to transfer both Kafle and Karki “to influence the case.”
According to sources, Pradhan called Kafle again on Thursday and “coaxed” him by offering a “lucrative transfer and a foreign trip.”
“Pradhan on Thursday dictated (to Kafle) a draft of the statement to be recorded for the accused,” the source said.
Pradhan was scheduled to fly to the US on Jan. 13. He had been invited to speak at the University of New Haven in Boston.
Ironically, the college had invited Pradhan for a nine-day program on “strengthening the criminal justice system in Nepal.”
Pradhan received his a US visa on last Saturday, the day before his departure.
What changed his traveling plans?
According to the Kathmandu Post:
“A US Embassy official took a brief interview of the attorney general (AG) before issuing him a visa, which is rare,” an official said. “That probably sowed seeds of doubt in the AG’s mind. That seemed to have led him to call off the visit, perhaps anxious to avoid Col Lama’s fate in the UK.”
“Following the cancellation of the US trip, the AG remained tight-lipped about what made him do that,” said an official at the AG’s office. “He appeared tensed all day today, cancelled all his in-house meetings and kept to himself,” said another official at the office.
Sources said that when Pradhan reached office on Sunday, officials there warned him that he could meet the same fate as Col Lama. Worse, he could also be greeted with black flags upon reaching the US.
Earlier in the day, the NHRC summoned Pradhan and asked him why he was obstructing new investigations into Thapa’s murder and why he had ordered his local-level officials to halt recording statements.
Meanwhile, journalists in Pradhan’s home, Dolakha, have decided to boycott all his public functions in the district.
“He has abused his authority by ordering to put on hold the investigations into the killing of a fellow journalist. We were happy when he was appointed the AG, but we are now dismayed by his actions,” a statement issued by the Federation of Nepali Journalists, Dolokha, said.
According to one of the delegates, who was to fly with Pradhan to Boston, the trip was not cancelled but rather postponed: “He (Pradhan) informed me that we would head for the US on January 22 instead of today (Sunday). He said it was not appropriate to leave the country at a time when there is a political and constitutional crisis.”
Is the attorney general suggesting that after January 22, Nepal will no longer be in a political and constitutional crisis?