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Last Updated: Friday, 1 April, 2005, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Ex-Nepal prime minister released
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Former Nepalese Prime Minister GP Koirala
Mr Koirala still wields influence in Nepal
One of Nepal's most influential politicians, GP Koirala, has been freed after two months of house arrest.

The Home Ministry says more than 250 people detained after King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency on 1 February were freed on Friday.

The king said he needed to assume direct power to defeat Nepal's Maoist rebel movement.

Mr Koirala has been prime minister three times and leads Nepal's biggest party, the Nepali Congress.

No access

For Mr Koirala, as for other top political leaders similarly penalised under the king's state of emergency, house arrest has not only meant being confined at home.

It also involved an almost total severance of communications such as phone lines and the cutting of their access to independent media.

Now Mr Koirala, who is over 80-years-old, has been freed three weeks after similar restrictions were lifted on Nepal's most recent prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba.

Others, however, remain confined or detained, including the leader of the country's second biggest party, Madhav Kumar Nepal, who is reported to be in poor health.

India, a traditional ally of Nepal which has been highly critical of the royal takeover, wasted no time in welcoming Mr Koirala's release and its ambassador here paid him a courtesy call.

The home ministry gave no details of the 250 detainees it said were released on Friday.

Strict media censorship means it is difficult to know how many detainees there are.

However, in a notable development earlier this week, a pro-democracy demonstration was for the first time allowed to go ahead as hundreds of journalists marched through the capital demanding press freedom.


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