Sobhraj, a 78-year-old French citizen, had been serving time for the deaths of American and Canadian backpackers in the 1970s. He has in the past admitted killing several Western tourists around Asia, and was the focus of a series co-produced by the BBC and Netflix called “The Serpent."
He arrived Saturday at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on a flight from Nepal via Qatar, his French lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, told The Associated Press.
She welcomed his release. “I’m very happy but very shocked that it took 19 years to obtain his normal freedom,” she said at the airport. She said his murder conviction in Nepal was a “fabricated case, based on falsified documents.”
She said Sobhraj will rest now that he is back in France.
The French government did not respond to requests for comment on whether he could face judicial challenges in France.
Sobhraj is believed to have killed at least 20 people in Afghanistan, India, Thailand, Turkey, Nepal, Iran and Hong Kong during the 1970s.
Sobhraj was held for two decades in New Delhi’s maximum-security Tihar prison on suspicion of theft but was deported without charge to France in 1997. He resurfaced in 2003 in Kathmandu, and was convicted the next year for the murders of American and Canadian backpackers in Nepal.
Life sentences in Nepal are 20 years. In announcing his release this week, the Nepal Supreme Court said he had already served more than 75% of his sentence and had behaved well in prison, making him eligible for release, and he has heart disease.
He was released Friday and ordered to leave Nepal within 15 days. A ticket was purchased with money received from a friend, and the French Embassy in Kathmandu prepared the necessary travel documents allowing him to take a flight out, attorney Gopal Siwakoti Chitan said.
His “serpent” nickname stems from his reputation as a disguise and escape artist. He was also known as “the bikini killer” because he often targeted young women.