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Last Updated: Monday, 12 April, 2004, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Nepalese police free journalists
Protests in Kathmandu, Nepal
The government says the ban was to halt Maoist infiltration
Fifty journalists have been briefly detained in Nepal amid renewed defiance of a ban on public assemblies.

The journalists, freed after two hours, were holding a rally in Kathmandu to demand democratic rights be restored.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested since the ban was imposed last week following a week of massive protests against King Gyanendra.

Political parties have been running a long campaign against the king's assumption of executive powers in 2002.

Parties' vow

The government says the ban on assemblies was imposed because of the threat of infiltration by Maoist rebels who have been fighting an eight-year insurgency against the constitutional monarchy.

On Sunday, Home Minister Kamal Thapa defended the ban, saying it would remain in place until the Kathmandu Valley was free of Maoism.

Mr Thapa accused leaders of smaller opposition parties of being in regular contact with the country's Maoist rebels.

Home Minister Kamal Thapa
Kamal Thapa accused parties of links with Maoist leaders

The journalists arrested on Monday were from the Reporters' Club and were showing solidarity with the people detained since the ban on assemblies of more than five people was enforced last Thursday.

The country's National Human Rights Commission said many of the detainees had been held in inhuman conditions, often without access to food or water.

It was shocked that people had been detained overnight in the Nepal Food Corporation warehouse, which on certain festivals is used to house goats and sheep.

The government says hundreds have now been released and those still detained have been moved to police premises.

Opposition parties on Monday vowed to continue their protests.

Madhav Kumar Nepal, general secretary of the United Marxist Leninist Communist Party of Nepal, told the Associated Press news agency: "Though our protests have been peaceful so far our next phase could be different."

Ram Chandra Poudel, a member of the main opposition Nepali Congress, said: "We are not going to stop our fight for democracy. Instead, we will begin similar protests in other parts of the country."

The opposition parties insist that the king restore the parliament he dissolved in October 2002.

The BBC's Charles Haviland
"The government says the protests have been infiltrated by Maoist rebels"

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