Wed, May 18, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Prosecutors seek 10-year term for Nepali ex-premier

AP , KATHMANDU

Prosecutors yesterday sought a 10-year prison term for former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on graft charges in the royal government's campaign to root out corruption since King Gyanendra grabbed power in February.

Deuba headed the government before he was sacked by the king and later detained, and has since become the highest-profile target of a new anti-corruption commission. He calls the panel illegal and says the charges are a politically motivated effort to remove Gyanendra's potential rivals.

Deuba was scheduled to appear before the panel yesterday, and could be convicted and even sentenced by the end of the day if proceedings progress swiftly, commission spokesman Prem Karki said.

The king said he was forced to take absolute power to curb rampant corruption and control a communist insurgency that has taken over much of the kingdom's countryside since 1996.

The rebels have since stepped up their fight, and at least nine government soldiers were killed in a clash this week in eastern Nepal, said a report yesterday in the popular Kantipur newspaper.

Prosecutors have mounted two cases against Deuba, including one filed on Monday accusing him and his former Cabinet minister, Prakash Man Singh, of embezzling 370 million rupees (US$53.3 million) in connection with a road construction project.

The Royal Commission for Corruption Control earlier had charged Deuba with illegally distributing state money to party workers. Officials at the commission said prosecutors were demanding a minimum 10 years in prison, but that Deuba could face an additional three years because of the high position he held.

Deuba's Nepali Congress Democratic party said the commission's moves had nothing to do with corruption.

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