Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Refugee journo gets 7-yr term in Bhutan
Source: The Kathmandu Post, Jan 21:
KATHMANDU, Shanti Ram Acharya, a correspondent of The Bhutan Reporter published in exile from Nepal, has been sentenced to seven and half years jail term, said Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA), Bhutan.

According to APFA Bhutan, an organisation of Bhutanese journalists in exile, Acharya was arrested in mid-January last year while going to meet his relatives in Bhutan, and was only recently lately informed about his jail term. APFA-Bhutan said though Acharya was charged of entering Bhutan to carry out terrorist activities there, the proofs presented by police do not provide enough evidence to prove him guilty of acting against Bhutan.

Condemning the punishment, the association has also sought support from ICRC and other international human rights groups to hire an independent attorney for Acharya's defence.

भुटानमा पत्रकारलाई साढे सात वर्ष
समाचार: Kantipur daily
काठमाडौं , माघ ९ - भुटान विरुद्ध गतिविधिमा सरिक भएको अभियोगमा एक भुटानी शरणार्थी पत्रकारलाई भुटानको अदालतले साढे सात वर्ष कैदको फैसला सुनाएको छ ।

एक वर्षअघि आफन्त भेट्न स्वदेश पुगेका शान्तिराम आचार्यलाई सर्वोच्च अदालतले सोमबार उक्त फैसला सुनाएको हो । उनीमाथि भुटान कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी -मालेमा) को सैन्य तालिमा भाग लिएको आरोप छ । नेपालबाट निस्कने 'भुटान अब्जर्भर' मासिक अखवारका संवाददाता आचार्यलाई गत वर्ष चैत ३ गते प्रारम्भिक सुनुवाइका लागि थिम्पुस्थित अदालतमा उपस्थित गराइएको थियो ।

यसैबीच एसोसिएसन अफ प्रेस फ्रिडम एक्टिभिस्ट -एपीएफए) भुटानले मंगलबार एक प्रेस विज्ञप्ति जारी गर्दै उक्त फैसलाको विरोध गरेको छ । एपीएफएका महासचिव विद्यापति मिश्रले जारी गरेको विज्ञप्तिमा उनको मुद्दामाथि पुनर्विचार गरिनुका साथै एक स्वतन्त्र अधिवक्ताको व्यवस्था हुनुपर्ने माग गरिएको छ । २० वषिर्य आचार्यलाई सावजनिक गरिनुपर्ने, उनलाई आफन्तसग भेट्न दिइनुपर्ने माग गर्दै विज्ञप्तिमा अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय रेडक्रस -आईसीआरसी) को समेत ध्यानाकर्षण गराइएको छ ।

Bhutanese journo slapped 7-year jail term
KATHMANDU, Jan 21: One of the correspondents of The Bhutan Reporter Monthly, published from exile in Nepal, has been sentenced for seven and half years in jail, according to Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) Bhutan.

APFA said in a statement on Wednesday that a Bhutanese High Court sentenced Shanti Ram Acharya in jail for his involvement in “subversive activities against Bhutan by participating in military training conducted by Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxists Leninists Maoists) in Nepal”.

Acharya, who had been to Bhutan to meet his relatives, was charged for entering the country to carry out terrorist activities. Arrested on January 16, 2007, Acharya was produced before the court for preliminary hearing on March 16. For two months, he was kept at the police custody where “it is obvious he faced tremendous and inhumanly torture to confess the charges”, the statement said.

However, the evidences produced by the police did not mention that Acharya carried out any terrorist activities in Bhutan but only mentioned that he received training with Nepalese Maoists in eastern Nepal. None of the evidence produced by the police speaks that Acharya had acted against Bhutan or Bhutanese government.

APFA has condemned the charges slapped on him and verdict given by the state-controlled high court and demanded to let him hire independent attorney for his defense. "We seek support from ICRC and other international human rights groups to hire independent attorney for Acharya for defense," said APFA.

Bhutan jails reporter for over seven years
KATHMANDU: Shantiram Acharya, who used to work for the Bhutan Reporter, a monthly newspaper brought out amidst great hardship by Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal, received the sentencing by Bhutan’s high court for being allegedly involved in subversive activities against the Druk kingdom, including participating in military training conducted by the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist Leninist Maoist) in Nepal, an armed underground organisation that is banned in Bhutan and believed to be operating from Nepal and India to end Bhutan’s hereditary monarchy.

According to the Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) Bhutan, an exiled Bhutanese media group based in Kathmandu, Acharya, a Bhutanese of Nepali origin who was living in the refugee camps in eastern Nepal, was arrested in 2007 when he visited Bhutan to meet his relatives.Acharya was kept in secret detention for almost two months and tortured by police to extract a confession, APFA said. According to the exiled media group, the Bhutan police charge sheet said he was arrested for taking photographs of an outpost of the Royal Bhutan Army.APFA also said it believed Acharya was convicted because he could not hire an attorney to defend him as Bhutan does not have any independent attorney.

Also, he had no money since he was produced in the court without the knowledge of his family members.Though the Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxist Leninist Maoist), from whom Bhutan police said Acharya had received arms training, said it had no association with the exiled reporter, the denial was not heeded by the Bhutanese court.Condemning the charges and the verdict by court, which APFA said was controlled by the state, the media group is asking the Bhutan government to open the case for review and let the 20-year-old hire an independent attorney.It is also asking for the jailed journalist’s whereabouts to be made public.

In November 2008, Bhutan was catapulted into world attention as it celebrated the crowning of its fifth king, the 28-year-old Oxford-educated Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk.The crowning was projected as another step towards democracy by the isolated Druk kingdom as the previous king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, abdicated in favour of his son.The change of guard is viewed with mixed feelings by over 100,000 Bhutanese of Nepali origin who have been languishing in Nepal for nearly two decades since their expulsion from Bhutan during a crackdown on ethnic communities.

While some of the refugees hope the new king will show a human face and re-open talks with Nepal for their repatriation, others however feel that the old king still continues to wield power and the abdication and drafting of the first-ever constitution are a facade to placate foreign donors who want Bhutan to respect human rights.

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