Nepal's Premier Baburam Bhattarai, slapped with a contempt case over his alleged intervention in the probe into the 2004 killing of a journalist by suspected Maoist cadres, appeared before the Supreme Court and claimed that he had not tried to prevent the investigation.
Days after the apex court sought explanation from him, Bhattarai said he did nothing that should have attracted the contempt case.
Furnishing his reply to the court yesterday, the Prime Minister claimed that he did not issue any instruction to prevent the investigation into the murder of radio journalist Dekendra Thapa over which Maoist cadres have been arrested.
However, he said that dealing with the war-era cases under regular justice system would be against the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed between the Maoists and the government some six years ago.
The Prime Minister appeared before the apex court in response to the January 18 summons in connection with the murder of Thapa in Dailekh district of western Nepal in 2004.
The court had asked Bhattarai and Attorney General Mukti Pradhan to appear in person to face the charges lavelled by advocates Kamal Prasad Itani and journalist Santosh Neupane that the duo had instructed the local authority to halt the investigation into the murder case.
The apex court also ordered district authorities to continue investigating the murder accused.
The Prime Minister's appearance before the apex court was a rare occasion in the judicial history of Nepal.
"This was very rare that the Prime Minister had to appear before the court in person in contempt case, as the court has taken the case very seriously," said advocate Dinesh Tripathi.
Attorney General Pradhan, who was present in the court yesterday, said he did not have any intention to disrespect the Supreme Court and had just suggested that war-time crimes should be prosecuted through transitional justice mechanism.
The Prime Minister told the court that the government has already forwarded an ordinance regarding formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which is pending at the office of the President after the opposition objected to its content and provisions.
The Office of the District Attorney in Dailekh, meanwhile, yesterday filed a case in a local court against nine Maoist cadres accused of murdering journalist Thapa.
"The murder case was filed against nine persons on the basis of a report prepared by District Police Office," said District Attorney Dambar Kafle.
Kafle has sought life imprisonment for the accused and confiscation of their property, according to court sources.
Maoist cadres had allegedly murdered journalist Thapa after inviting him for discussion on the issue of drinking water.
Thapa was accused by local Maoist cadres of helping to supply water to the army and police in the remote district of western Nepal during the conflict period.
Bhattarai's appearance in the court yesterday came at a time when nine opposition parties, including Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, have launched a 20-day agitation against him since mid-January, demanding his ouster.
The opposition parties today took out protest rallies in Kathmandu today coinciding with the 'martyrs day'.