Nepal’s prime minister has appointed a senior Maoist leader accused of ordering the killing of a school president during the country’s civil war as his new information minister.
The appointment of Agni Sapkota, who was among seven new Maoist ministers named late on Wednesday, is certain to cause controversy in Nepal, which is recovering from the decade-long conflict between Maoist rebels and the state.
Human Rights Watch has urged authorities to investigate Sapkota’s alleged involvement in the death of Arjun Bahadur Lama, who witnesses say was abducted from his village in 2005 by Maoist insurgents and later killed.
After the war ended in 2006, the Supreme Court ordered local police to register a murder case against Sapkota and five others, but none of the accused has ever been brought to trial.
Sapkota could not immediately be reached for comment, but a spokesman for the Maoist party said the accusations against the new minister were “politically motivated.”
The Maoists won the highest number of seats in elections held in 2008, but not enough to govern alone, and are now part of a coalition run by Nepalese Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal’s United Marxist Leninist party.
Sharma said the new Cabinet would focus on completing the peace process, which includes the long-awaited integration of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army with the national force, and writing a new constitution.
The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, which represents the ethnic minority that inhabits the restive southern region near the border with India, also joined the government. Its leader, Upendra Yadav, was named deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs.