Among a list of 13 elderly prisoners that Nepal’s jail administration has moved forward is one name that has taken everyone by surprise: Charles Shobraj. It looks like Nepal’s COVID-19 lockdown will see Shobraj freed from lockup after 16 years in jail in Nepal.
If it goes through, the 75-year-old French-Indian-Vietnamese serial killer accused of leaving a trail of at least 12 murders across Asia in the 1970s, and imprisoned at least three times, will be released from Kathmandu’s Central Jail.
On 20 March Nepal’s Supreme Court responded positively to a move by Attorney General Agni Kharel and sent the file to the Home Ministry to release 13 elderly prisoners. Central Jail’s Laxmi Baskota confirmed that Shobraj’s name is on the list. If the Home Ministry approves the release of all the prisoners, the man named as The Serpent may soon be free.
“It is up to the Home Ministry to make the final decision, but we are sending the list to them,” said the director general of the Jail Administration Department, Pradip Raj Kandel.
Attorney General Kharel has cited a 2015 law that senior citizens who are serving jail time could be released.
Shobhraj had got his lawyer Shakuntala Thapa to file a case in the Supreme Court asking for his release citing that law. However, the law only says that prisoners between 70-75 can have their sentences reduced by 50%, and it is applicable only to Nepali citizens.
Two years ago, the Appeals Court had issued the government a show cause notice asking why Shobhraj should continue to be in jail. In 2015, the Bhaktapur District Court had sentenced Shobhraj to life imprisonment for the murder of a Canadian and American tourist. Shobraj’s lawyers then filed an appeal.