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LONDON: Nepalese army colonel Kumar Lama, charged with two counts of torture, appeared in court in Britain yestereday, when a provisional date of June 5 was set for his trial.
The 46-year-old appeared via videolink at England’s central criminal court the Old Bailey. He is being held in London’s top-security Belmarsh Prison.
He stands accused of inflicting severe pain or suffering on two men when he was in charge of a barracks during the Himalayan nation’s decade-long Maoist insurgency in 2005.
His arrest in the faded English seaside town of Hastings on January 3 sparked a formal protest by the Nepalese government to the British ambassador in Kathmandu and a demand for his release.
Lama, who had been serving as a United Nations peacekeeper in South Sudan before spending a Christmas break with his family in England, wore a brown jumper and glasses and sat quietly throughout the 40-minute preliminary hearing.
The trial will be heard at Kingston Crown Court in southwest London and is expected to last four to six weeks.
A plea and hearing will take place on May 10.
Lama was remanded in custody after judge Adrian Fulford refused a bail application.
He has indefinite leave to remain in Britain and his home address was given as Hastings, on the southeast coast. Lama was arrested under British law, which allows prosecutors to act against people suspected of torture no matter where it took place in the world. The first count against him states that between April 15 and May 1, 2005, “as a public official or person acting in an official capacity, at the Gorusinghe Army Barracks, Kapilvastu, Nepal, you intentionally inflicted severe pain or suffering on Janak Bahadur Raut in the performance or purported performance of your official duties”. The second charge says that between April 15 and October 31, 2005, in the same circumstances, the suspect tortured a man named as Karam Hussain.