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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Nepal to probe 'royal excesses'
Police fire teargas during the anti-king protests
Police were accused of excessive force against protesters
A high-level panel in Nepal has begun investigating alleged excesses by the royalist government in cracking down on pro-democracy protests last month.

Officials say the panel will question senior officials and probe alleged brutality by the security forces.

At least 16 people were killed during the protests, in which thousands defied shoot-on-sight curfew orders. Four others succumbed to injuries later.

The protests forced the king to end his direct rule and reinstate parliament.

UN criticism

The new government says the inquiry panel will recommend action against any officials found guilty of committing excesses.

King Gyanendra
King Gyanendra's handling of the crisis was widely condemned

A retired Supreme Court justice will head the five-member panel, which will also include a doctor, a lawyer and a journalist.

Several hundred people were wounded in the unrest last month, when security forces used batons, and fired tear gas and live rounds on crowds protesting against King Gyanendra.

The police crackdown drew heavy criticism from the international community including the UN, which described the action by the security forces as excessive.

Nepal's new multi-party government has already revoked appointments made by the king, and recalled several ambassadors from key capitals, including Washington, Delhi, London, Tokyo and Paris.

It has also scrapped a number of controversial royal ordinances curbing press freedom and controlling non-government organisations (NGOs).

The new government and Maoist rebels agreed a ceasefire after the king ended palace rule, although a date has yet to be set for peace talks.

Elections have also been announced to a constituent assembly, a key rebel demand. The body will have the power to rewrite the country's constitution and decide the future of the monarchy.

Rebel statement

A statement from the rebels late on Tuesday called on the government to begin immediately the process of freeing leaders and comrades jailed both in Nepal and India.

The statement also said that the rebels had begun handing back land and property seized during their decade-long uprising.

On Wednesday the rebels denied abducting five policemen south-west of Kathmandu. Journalists in the area confirmed the denial.

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