Dealing a body blow to 'bikini killer' Charles Sobhraj's freedom bid, Nepal's Supreme Court on Friday convicted the Indian-origin criminal in a sensational murder case of an American tourist and upheld the life term awarded to him by lower courts.
Sobhraj, 66, a French national whose father was an Indian and mother a Vietnamese, was also found guilty by the apex court of possessing a fake passport.
Rejecting the appeal of the international criminal in the 1975 murder case of US citizen Connie Jo Bronzich, a two-judge bench of the apex court comprising Ram Kumar Prasad Shaha and Gauri Dhakal upheld the verdicts of the Kathmandu district court and Patan appellate court in the matter.
"Although there is no direct evidence, based on circumstantial evidence, we don't see any fault in the decision of the Kathmandu district court and the Patan appellate court. Therefore, we uphold their verdicts," Justice Shaha said.
Sobhraj was sentenced by the lower courts to a 20-year life term for the murder of Bronzich and one year jail and Rs 2,000 fine in the fake passport case. While delivering its judgment, Nepal's apex court took into account Sobhraj's statement before an Indian court that he had traveled to Nepal along with his girlfriend Mary.
His girlfriend had also spoken of his involvement in the murder of Bronzich. Reacting to the verdict, Sobhraj's lawyer Shakuntala Thapa, who is also his mother-in-law, claimed that her client was 'denied' justice.
Sobhraj's wife Nihita Biswas also expressed her dissatisfaction with the verdict and rejected all charges against him as baseless. Earlier on July 14, the apex court had said it needed two more weeks to decide the matter.
The case of Sobhraj, who was linked to a series of backpacker killings of tourists across Asia, had attracted international media attention, particularly after he announced his engagement and marriage to Nepalese teenager Nihita in 2008, while still inside prison.
The alleged serial killer has already spent seven years in jail in the murder case of Bronzich, who was stabbed repeatedly, burnt beyond recognition and whose body was dumped on the outskirts of the Nepalese capital.
Sobhraj was arrested during his second visit here in 2003 and convicted by the Kathmandu district court in 2004, a judgment later upheld by the Patan appellate court in 2005. He moved the apex court in 2006 challenging the lower courts' verdicts.
Sobhraj was nabbed from Kathmandu's Royale Casino in 2003 on charges of traveling on a fake passport. Later, he was also convicted for the murder of the American backpacker. Sobharj claims that he has never visited Nepal before 2003 and denies having committed any crime there.
He had previously been convicted in India and served 21 years in prison for culpable homicide. After his release, he returned to live in France. Sobhraj has another case pending against him in connection with the murder of a Canadian tourist Laurent Armound Carriere in the Bhaktapur district court.