Nepal Panel Blames King for Excesses Against Pro-Democracy Protesters

A government commission in Nepal has found King Gyanendra responsible for excesses against pro-democracy demonstrators, and has recommended that he be punished. It is the first time in the country that a monarch has been held accountable for his actions.

The report by an official panel has blamed King Gyanendra for a bloody crackdown against thousands of protestors who packed the streets of Kathmandu in April demanding that the king restore democratic freedoms he had revoked in 2005.

About 20 people died and thousands were injured in the anti-government protests. The campaign forced the king to give up direct rule and reinstate parliament.

The investigation into misuse of power and human rights abuses during the King's 15-month rule began after an interim government stripped the monarch of most of his powers.

It was a landmark probe in a country where the monarch has traditionally been revered as an incarnation of a Hindu god. Harihar Birahi, a member of the panel, says the commission has recommended that the king should be punished along with about 200 other officials who have been found responsible for abuses.

Mr. Birahi says that the king in his capacity as head of the government should face the same penalty as others, because no one should be above the law.

But the government will have to enact new laws to prosecute the king, because the monarch's actions are not subject to scrutiny under the current Nepalese constitution.

For the embattled king, the new report is more bad news. He already faces an uncertain future - Nepal will decide next year whether to retain the monarchy when a new constitution is written.

Many in the country, including Maoist rebels who are due to sign a peace deal with the government, have demanded the abolition of the monarchy.

Maoist leader Prachanda, who was recently in New Delhi, told Indian television the king should face justice for his past crimes. He also sounded a warning note to the king not to impede the peace process that seeks to end the bloody decade-long insurgency and draw the rebels into the government.

"If the king will follow the verdict of the masses and he will not sabotage this peace process and election of the constituent assembly, then we can give a chance to him to become a common citizen, but if he tries to sabotage the process, then our people will not allow him to go unpunished," he said.

Officials say the prime minister has promised to take action against those named in the report.