'Bikini killer' not hopeful of release in Nepal: lawyer

29th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Frenchman dubbed the "bikini killer" has little chance of winning an appeal against his 20-year jail sentence in Nepal that is set to be heard Friday, his lawyer has admitted.

Charles Sobhraj, dubbed the "bikini killer" for his links to a series of grisly backpacker killings across Asia in the 1970s, is appealing against his conviction six years ago for the 1975 murder of an American tourist in Nepal.

The 66-year-old's lawyer told AFP she had little hope he would be set free and accused the country's judiciary of behaving like "thugs" and seeking to profit from her client.

"I am not very optimistic (about the verdict), because they have shown they could not care less about international legal standards," Isabelle Coutant-Peyre told AFP by telephone from Paris.

"Nepal's political and legal institutions are behaving like a gang of thugs."

The Supreme Court is due Friday to deliver its verdict on his appeal after years of hearings and repeated delays.

Sobhraj has maintained his innocence throughout, saying he was not even in Nepal when Connie Joe Bronzich was stabbed repeatedly and her body, burned almost beyond recognition, dumped on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

He was convicted of her murder in 2004 and had a previous appeal against the ruling rejected in 2005.

Handwriting analysis played a significant part in the conviction, with signatures on two hotel registration cards around the time of the murder said to be his.

But Sobhraj's lawyers say the originals were never produced during his trial, only photocopies.

Sobhraj, born to Vietnamese and Indian parents but of French nationality, has been linked to the deaths of at least 12 backpackers across Asia in the 1970s.

He was previously convicted for culpable homicide not amounting to murder in India, where he served 21 years in prison. He was eventually released and returned to live in France.

© 2010 AFP

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