Sun, Jan 22, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Nepalese police clash with demonstrators in capital

DUELING WITH AUTHORITIES Hundreds of protesters were arrested in a government crackdown imposed to thwart attempts to organize a pro-democracy protest


Police in riot gear fired tear gas yesterday to disperse pro-democracy activists who defied a ban on rallies in the capital and protested King Gyandenra's seizure of absolute power last year. At least 200 people were arrested and 50 injured.

Hundreds of protesters played cat-and-mouse with police, throwing stones and running away in and around Durbar Square in the historic center of Kathmandu.

Dozens of political leaders and student activists were also arrested yesterday in different parts of Nepal as they protested the arrest of their top leaders in Kathmandu on Thursday and Friday.

The arrests yesterday came as political activists belonging to seven parties opposed to King Gyanendra's direct rule called general strikes in the east Nepal township of Biratnagar and the west Nepal hill town of Surkhet.

Dozens of police carried firearms, in place of their usual bamboo batons.

Some 200 demonstrators were rounded up and taken away in police vans, according to journalists at the scene and other eyewitnesses. The activists chanted pro-democracy slogans as they were taken away.

The square was the planned venue for a pro-democracy protest but there was no sign of a mass rally, with small groups of people sporadically trickling into the square, which was littered with stones and half-bricks.

Citing the threat of Maoist rebel violence, the government on Friday banned street protests, cut mobile telephone services, imposed a daytime curfew and arrested hundreds of activists.

A number of political party leaders including former prime minister G.P. Koirala were placed under house arrest.

Activists from a seven-party alliance sacked by the king in February last year when he seized total power called the rally to protest municipal elections due to be held Feb. 8 as part of the king's road map to restore democracy.

Political parties have denounced the elections as a sham.

The government imposed an 8am to 6pm curfew in Kathmandu on Friday to prevent a proposed anti-king protest. The proposed rally, did not take place because of the curfew.

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