Police beat journalists in Nepal

0

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) – Baton-wielding police beat protesting Nepali journalists Saturday as thousands of people marched peacefully in the capital to demand the restoration of democracy.

Shops and businesses shut across much of the country as the opposition pressed a general strike. Tensions had eased in the previous two days due to the Nepali New Year’s holiday.

Thousands of people marched for miles Saturday afternoon along the ring road encircling Katmandu, shouting “Down with the monarchy! Salute the republic!”

“Life will be brought to a standstill,” said Subash Nemwang of the Communist Party of Nepal, one of the seven opposition parties organizing the strike and protests, which entered their 10th day Saturday.

About 200 journalists tried to march through Katmandu Saturday morning to demand more press freedom and the release of dozens of reporters detained since King Gyanendra seized absolute power 14 months ago.

Police blocked the rally and charged with batons, injuring seven people and detaining at least a dozen, organizers said.

“We will continue … protests until all restrictions on the media are fully lifted,” said Bishnu Nisthuri of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists.

There were demonstrations demanding King Gyanendra relinquish power in numerous other towns and cities, officials and local media said.

“There should be no constitutional monarchy. There should be pure democracy because the monarchy has been very bad to the people of Nepal,” said one of the Katmandu marchers, 24-year-old agriculture student Ujwal Dhakal.

The Katmandu protest moved through neighborhoods in the capital that have been flashpoints for violence between protesters and police. It remained peaceful until demonstrators tried to enter the city center, where rallies are banned.

When police blocked their way across a small bridge, a brief melee broke out as officers beat them back with batons and fired a few cylinders of tear gas. No one was injured in the skirmish, which ended within minutes. The protest ended a short while later.

Gyanendra said he took control to restore political order and end a communist insurgency that has left nearly 13,000 people dead in the past decade.

His royal government has since banned criticism of the king, the government and security forces, along with independent reporting on the rebellion to abolish the monarchy and establish a communist state.

The protests, which began April 6, are the worst unrest Gyanendra has faced since his power grab in this mountain kingdom, which long has attracted mountain climbers looking to scale peaks like Mt. Everest and Western hippies searching for Eastern spirituality.

Although most demonstrations have been peaceful, some have degenerated into battles between brick-throwing demonstrators and security forces, who have responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and, on a few occasions, live ammunition.

Four people have been fatally shot and hundreds have been beaten, fueling anti-royalist sentiment and prompting criticism from the United Nations.

The seven main opposition parties decided late Friday to continue with the strike and protests after Gyanendra offered few concessions in his annual New Year’s message.

“The strike appeared to be relaxed over the last two days, but that will change from today,” Nemwang of the Communist Party said Saturday.



Associated Press reporter Binaj Gurubacharya contributed to this report.

AP-ES-04-15-06 1638EDT

Advertisement
SHARE