Arrested journo sentenced for 7 years jail term
“According to the verdict given by High Court, Shanti Ram Acharya, has been alleged of involving in subversive activities against Bhutan by participating in military training conducted by Communist Party of Bhutan (Marxists Leninists Maoists) in Nepal,” said Association of Press Freedom Activists (APFA) Bhutan.
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 court order claimed that laws and charge sheets were read in Nepali language. However, in the Bhutanese court Nepali is never used in proceedings and there are no Nepali speaking attorneys. Most documents are prepared in Dzongkha which many Nepali speaking Bhutanese do not understand,” said APFA.
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 Bhutan government. Police charge sheet said he was arrested for taking photograph of an outpost of Royal Bhutan Army with digital camera, which does not substantiate enough evidence to prove his guilt of acting against Bhutan.
Tsa-Wa-Sum, the biggest weapon of the Bhutan government for evicting more than 130,000 Nepali speakers from southern Bhutan in 1990, has again been the weapon to sabotage this innocent youth, 20.
“Just with two appearances before the court, Archarya was compelled to sign the document agreeing with charges slapped on him. The recent example of Gyeltshen (in Bhutan Times) speaks of the extent of torture given to people in Bhutanese police custody compelling them to accept that charges. Acharya, cannot be exception to this,” wrote APFA in its statement.
“We believe, Acharya failed to hire attorney for his defense for two reason and these made him become the prey of Bhutanese regime. Bhutan does not have any independent attorney to be hired by individual and lack of financial backup because he was produced at the court without the knowledge of his relatives and family members.”
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 and that the case is reviewed again.
APFA Bhutan has demanded to make public the whereabouts and present condition of Acharya and help him contact his family and relatives in and outside Bhutan.
“We seek support from ICRC and other international human rights groups to hire independent attorney for Acharya for defense.” Bhutan News Service