Nepalese court orders Charles Sobhraj released from prison

Nepalese court orders Charles Sobhraj released from prison

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A Nepalese court has ordered the release of French killer Charles Sobhraj, reducing his life sentence for the murder of an American tourist.

Police believed Mr Sobhraj killed as many as 20 people in the 1970s and 1980s, although he was only convicted of three murders. He was suspected of targeting western backpackers traveling the “Hippie Trail,” an overland route that ran between Europe and Asia that attracted young adult travellers.

Known as “the Serpent” for his ability to evade detection and capture by authorities, Mr Sobhraj has been the subject of several dramatizations, including a Netflix series. He raised his profile by maintaining relationships with journalists, to whom he told outrageous stories about his crimes.

His lawyer Gopal Siwakoti said in an interview that he was to be released from a high-security prison in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu on Thursday, handed over to the immigration authorities and returned to France.

Mr Sobhraj wants to stay in Nepal for at least a week before being repatriated, Mr Siwakoti said, to undergo a medical check-up for a heart condition and because “some teams of documentary filmmakers are coming from Paris”.

“As a celebrity, he has his own circle of friends,” added Mr. Siwakoti.

Mr Sobhraj, 78, was released under a provision of Nepalese law that allows elderly prisoners to be released after serving 75 percent of their sentence if they have behaved decently in prison or are in need of medical treatment.

He had repeatedly applied to the court for early release and presented documents supporting his claim that the court ordered him to have open-heart surgery.

Nepal’s Supreme Court granted his request on medical grounds, declaring on Wednesday that keeping him behind bars was “incompatible with the prisoner’s human rights” and ordered his return within 15 days.

Mr Sobhraj has been accused of killing tourists in Thailand, India and Nepal. Thailand issued an arrest warrant for him in connection with the drugging and murder of six women, but he was never extradited to the country.

In 2003, Mr Sobhraj was arrested in Nepal for the 1975 murder of Connie Jo Bronzich, an American. The following year, he was sentenced to a 20-year prison term that was due to expire in October 2023. In 2014 he was convicted of the murder of Ms Bronzich’s boyfriend, a Canadian named Laurent Carrière.

Mr Sobhraj was arrested in India in 1976 for the poisoning and murder of a French tourist, Jean-Luc Solomon, and spent 20 years in Tihar prisons in New Delhi.

He lived in the “luxury wing” of the prison and bribed guards with gems and money so that he could live apart from the other prisoners. He also had a television, fridge and computer in his cell, according to British writer Farrukh Dhondy, who had a decades-long relationship with Mr Sobhraj and later wrote a book about him.

Mr Sobhraj briefly fled Tihar and was recaptured shortly thereafter while dining in Goa on the coast of western India. Newspapers reported at the time that he escaped from maximum security prison by drugging his guards with a spiked birthday cake.

After his release from prison in India, he returned to France for several years. In 2003 he visited Nepal despite an outstanding arrest warrant against him. He was spotted by a journalist and subsequently arrested while gambling in a casino.

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