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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
India presses Nepal on democracy
Nepal's King Gyanendra
King Gyanendra has defended his actions
India has told King Gyanendra of Nepal to lift a state of emergency and free detainees held after his February coup.

Foreign Minister Natwar Singh met the king on Friday on the sidelines of an Asian-African summit in Indonesia.

It was India's first high-level contact with the king since he seized power. Earlier on Friday a former deputy PM and 60 others were freed in Nepal.

Rights group Amnesty International says about 3,000 political prisoners have been held in Nepal since the coup.

[Natwar Singh urged] a speedy release of the remaining political leaders, the lifting of the emergency and media censorship
Indian Foreign Ministry statement

India and most other members of the international community have repeatedly condemned the king's move.

He says he needed to act against Maoist rebels and corruption.

His Indonesia trip is the first time he has left the kingdom since taking power.

'Edge of a precipice'

Natwar Singh met King Gyanendra face-to-face for about 45 minutes at the summit as it got under way in Jakarta on Friday, an Indian foreign ministry statement said.

We strongly urge the international community for greater understanding and support in our fight against terrorism
King Gyanendra

Mr Singh welcomed the release of some political leaders and the announcement of municipal elections in Nepal.

But he urged the king to initiate a process of reconciliation with political parties.

The king "explained the circumstances" that had led him to sack his government, and offered assurances that the state of emergency could soon be lifted, the Indian statement said.

It added that the king was looking forward to meeting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also attending the summit.

In a speech to summit leaders, King Gyanendra said he was forced to act because of a bloody nine-year insurgency by Maoist rebels.

"Terrorism and the self-induced inability of the political parties and various governments to rise to the challenge of ever emboldening terrorists were driving the country to the edge of precipice," he said.

Human rights abuses

London-based Amnesty International said widespread arrests of political activists, journalists, human rights workers and trade union leaders had taken place in the two months since the royal takeover.

Protester in Nepal
Police have cracked down on opposition protests

It said its figure of 3,000 detainees was based on estimates by local human rights groups. About 1,000 political detainees remained in custody.

Many of the prisoners, it alleged, had been tortured.

"Legal safeguards against human rights abuses - which were already very weak - have almost entirely collapsed since 1 February," Amnesty said.

There has been no response from the Nepal government to the Amnesty report.

But on Friday, the authorities announced that a former deputy prime minister, Bharat Mohan Adhikari, had been freed.

Mr Adhikari, the leader of Nepal's main Communist party, had spent 81 days under house arrest.

His party is one of four in the coalition government of Sher Bahadur Deuba that was dismissed by the king.

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