Journalists arrested over allegations of Indian conspiracy

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The Independent Online

A top Nepali journalist and two of his colleagues were arrested in Kathmandu yesterday after the newspaper they work for published an article about last Friday's royal massacre by the chief ideologue of the Maoist insurgency, Baburam Bhattarai. The article suggested a conspiracy involving India and the United States was behind the killings.

Last night the men were under interrogation in a central Kathmandu police station for alleged offences against a treason law which allows for lengthy detention without trial.

Speaking by mobile phone from the police station, Yubraj Ghimire, editor-in-chief of Kantipur and a former correspondent of The Independent, said: "I expect to be held for a day or two but they can keep us in detention for six months."

Before the introduction of parliamentary democracy 11 years ago, the treason law was widely used to silence political opponents of the government. Mr Ghimire added: "The present constitution guarantees freedom of the press."

Kantipur has frequently carried articles by leaders of the Maoist insurgency that has been raging in the interior for five years, as well as articles critical of the insurgency. But it has not previously incurred the wrath of the authorities.

The arrest of Mr Ghimire, Kailash Sirohiya, the newspaper's managing director and Binod Raj Gyawali, a director, is seen by some as an indication thatKing Gyanendra ­ crowned on Monday and Nepal's third monarch in four days ­ plans to play a tougher game than his predecessor, King Birendra, universally spoken of as kind, gentle and sensitive.

After the coronation of King Gyanendra, described by a foreign diplomat as "imperious", a strict curfew was enforced on the capital for two days.

In most parts of Kathmandu a semblance of normality had returned yesterday. Some shops had opened,taxis and buses were running and the airport was open.