UK & World News
Gurkhas Demand Release Of Nepal Army Officer
Nepal's Gurkhas have called on Britain to immediately release an army colonel following his arrest for war crimes allegedly committed during the country's civil war in 2005.
The brigade's retired servicemen's organisation in Kathmandu demanded the "unconditional release" of Nepalese Colonel Kumar Lama, 46, who has been charged with two counts of torture.
"Nepalis themselves should be allowed to take decisions on issues of this nature," the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organisation (GAESO) said in a statement.
Lama, of St Leonard's-on-Sea in East Sussex, is currently serving as a UN peacekeeper in South Sudan.
He was arrested last week under British law, which allows prosecutors to act against people suspected of torture no matter where the alleged offences took place.
His detention has caused a diplomatic row between London and Kathmandu, which angrily condemned the move to prosecute the colonel in Britain.
Lama is accused of inflicting severe pain or suffering while serving at the Gorusinghe Army Barracks at Kapilvastu, Nepal.
The offences allegedly occurred between April 15, 2005, and October 31, 2005.
Lama had been spending Christmas in Britain when he was arrested. His wife and two children, aged 17 and 21, live in the UK.
More than 16,000 people died in Nepal's decade-long conflict between Maoist rebels and government forces.
The conflict ended in 2006. Around 1,000 people remain missing from the war.
Maoist Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has urged President Ram Baran Yadav to set up a long-delayed truth and reconciliation commission so that rows caused by foreign arrests of Nepalese torture suspects could be avoided in future.
"In his meeting with the president, Baburam Bhattarai said the arrest was a sad incident," the premier's spokesman Bishwadeep Pandey said.
"In order to prevent such incidents in future, he urged the president to approve an ordinance to pave the way for setting up the commission."
Lama is due to appear at the Old Bailey on January 24.
About 200,000 Gurkhas fought for Britain in World War I and World War II, taking pride in a reputation for ferocity and bravery and known for their distinctive curved kukri knives.