The Serpent: Notorious French serial killer released from Nepal prison

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By Euronews  with AP
French serial killer Charles Sobhraj in Kathmandu, May 2011
French serial killer Charles Sobhraj in Kathmandu, May 2011   -   Copyright  Prakash MATHEMA / AFP

French serial killer Charles Sobhraj was freed from prison in Nepal on Friday after serving most of his sentence for the murders of Western backpackers.

Sobhraj was driven out of Kathmandu's Central Jail in a heavily guarded police convoy to the Department of Immigration, where he will wait for his travel documents to be prepared. The order also said he had to leave the country within 15 days.

The country's Supreme Court had ordered that Sobhraj, who was sentenced to life in prison in Nepal, be released because of poor health, good behaviour and having already served most of his sentence. 

Life sentences in Nepal come out to 20 years behind bars, of which Sobhraj has served 18.

Sobhraj's attorney Gopal Siwakoti Chitan told reporters that the request for the travel documents must be made by Nepal's immigration department to the French embassy in the country, which could take some time.

Offices are closed over the weekend for the Christmas holiday.

The court document said he had already served more than 75% of his sentence, while Sobhraj has a heart condition that requires treatment in France.

The Frenchman has in the past admitted to killing 10 Western tourists — a confession he later withdrew — while he is believed to have killed at least 20 people in Afghanistan, India, Thailand, Turkey, Nepal, Iran and Hong Kong during the 1970s.

Sobhraj would pose as a high-flying gem trader or drug dealer to impress and befriend tourists, often inviting them to lavish parties or having them join his entourage before defrauding them and, in some cases, killing them.

Sobhraj was held for two decades in New Delhi's maximum-security Tihar prison on suspicion of theft but was deported without charge to France in 1997. He resurfaced in September 2003 in Kathmandu.

His 2004 conviction in Nepal was the first time he was found guilty in court.

His nickname, The Serpent, stems from his reputation as a disguise and escape artist. In 2021, Netflix and BBC One released a critically-acclaimed series with the same title, covering some of Sobhraj's crimes.