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Echoes of Julian Assange case in Nepal rape charge

Posted by on March 9, 2011 1 Comment

Kathmandu, March 9 (IANS) A rape charge, similar to the controversial case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, has now surfaced in Nepal with an American tourist filing a complaint against a Nepali hotel owner.

On Tuesday, when Nepal was celebrating International Women’s Day, an American woman, originally from Colorado, filed an official complaint with Nepal Police, alleging she was raped Monday night by the owner of a hotel in Kathmandu where she had been staying with a friend.

The woman, who was reportedly teaching in South Korea, had arrived in Nepal Feb 25 with a woman companion. The two booked a single room in the modest, three-storey Puna Hill Hotel in Chhetrapati, a narrow lane adjoining Thamel, the hub of foreign tourists in the capital.

After staying in the hotel for two days, the two tourists went to Pokhara city on a trek, returning Monday.

After that, versions differ as to what happened.

According to the charge pressed by the woman and taken up by the American Embassy in Kathmandu, she was raped by Kamal Tharu, the owner of the hotel.

However, according to the hotel staff, it started out as consensual sex which took an ugly turn when the American insisted that Tharu use a condom and he refused.

On Monday night, the American’s companion went back to their room after dinner, saying she was tired.

But the alleged victim stayed up on the roof-top garden of the hotel with Tharu and after some time, according to the hotel staff, they went to Tharu’s room where the trouble started.

“On Tuesday morning, the two women called a taxi and fled with their belongings,” the hotel staff told IANS. “We tried to stop the car as they had not paid their dues but they urged the taxi to go.”

Around noon Tuesday, after hearing from the American Embassy, police swung into action, arresting Tharu.

Police said the alleged victim had been sent to the state-run maternity hospital for medical examination and they were investigating the charge.

Tharu is under police custody.

The rape charge partly echoes the case of Julian Assange, who faces charges by two women after sexual encounters in one of which Assange refused to use a condom and in the other, the condom broke.

The alleged rape comes less than a year after a second Colorado resident, 23-year-old Aubrey Sacco, vanished in April 2010 while on a lone trek in northern Nepal.

Though her father and brother came to Nepal to lead the search, Sacco has still not been found. Last week, Aubrey’s mother Connie Sacco defended an adverse travel advisory by the American government, which called Nepal an unsafe destination, reminding people that her daughter was yet to be found.

The latest case comes at a time Nepal is celebrating the year 2011 as tourism year with the aim of drawing one million air-borne foreign tourists and kickstarting its tottering economy. After India, China and Britain, the US is one of the biggest markets for Nepal.

Nepal’s authorities say the country is a safe destination for tourists, provided the latter follows reasonable precautions.

Trekkers are always urged not to go alone as a precaution against accidents and crime. However, Aubrey Sacco insisted on going on her own.

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