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Nepal: Dozens arrested ahead of pro-democracy strike
5 April 2006
At least 37 people were arrested on 5 April in Kathmandu as they took part in a peaceful protest rally organised by the Professional Alliance for Peace and Democracy (PAPAD) to show their support for the nationwide four day pro-democracy strike due to begin tomorrow, 6 April.
According to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ); 13 journalists, including FNJ President, Bishnu Nisthuri; 13 lawyers, including The President of the Nepal Bar Association Shamblu Thapa, and 11 other professionals and human rights defenders were arrested and are currently being held in Bhrikutimandap police station in central Kathmandu.
A government ban on protests in Nepal’s capital came into force on 4 April – two days ahead of the scheduled national strike and six days ahead of an anti-monarchy protest march on Saturday organised by a seven-party political opposition alliance. Along with the 37 people arrested at the protest rally, approximately 20 Political opposition leaders were also arrested on 5 April.
Nepalese human rights defenders fear this is the beginning of yet another government crackdown on civil society – previous crackdowns have included dusk until dawn curfews, telecommunications blackouts, arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders and opposition leaders in their homes and the use of water cannons and tear gas against peaceful protestors. A curfew is already in place from 11pm on 5 April to 3am on 6 April.
In the lead up to anti-monarchy protests in January this year, mass arrests of members of civil society and political activists ensued. Plainclothes police arrested founder chairperson of the Human Rights and Peace Society (HURPES), Krishna Pahadi, in his home on Thursday 19 January – He remains in prison.
Front Line has called on the Nepalese authorities to release immediately and unconditionally the human rights defenders arrested on April 5 together with Krishna Pahadi and others arrested earlier this year and to respect the UN declaration on human rights defenders as well as guaranteeing the right of freedom of association and assembly.
Update 4.01pm, 5 April Front Line has just received reports from the FNJ that all 37 professionals arrested in the morning of 5 April have been released without charge following nine hours in prison. Front Line continues to call on the Nepalese government to release Krishna Pahadi and others arrested earlier this year as well as respecting the UN declaration on human rights defenders and guaranteeing Nepalese citizens the right of freedom of association and assembly.