KATMANDU, NEPAL -- Security forces have detained more than 3,000 political prisoners since Nepal's king seized power in February and many allegedly have been tortured, Amnesty International said Thursday in a report that cites local human rights groups.
The accusations came as King Gyanendra was in Indonesia where he hopes to use a meeting of world leaders at the Asia-Africa Summit to explain why he sacked his country's government and declared a state of emergency. Several nations have strongly condemned the monarch's takeover.
"The last two months have been characterized by widespread arrests of political activists, as well as human rights defenders, trade unionists and journalists, with the apparent aim of preventing protest against the king's takeover," London-based Amnesty said in a report on its Web site.
The group said that on one day alone, March 14, 700 people were arrested during pro-democracy demonstrations. The report did not name the local rights groups it was citing as saying that more than 3,000 people had been detained.
The report said the torture of some prisoners included "being kicked and beaten with sticks, doused with cold water, forced to spend a long time in stress positions and being denied food and water."
There was no immediate reaction from the government to the accusations.
The report also criticized the government's clampdown on the media, saying that since February "the media ... has experienced further increases in government censorship and in the harassment of editors and journalists."
Also Thursday, Nepal's Supreme Court ordered the government to explain its reasons for a ban on broadcasting news over private radio stations, in the first legal challenge to the restrictions on media freedom.
After the ban was imposed in February, soldiers were deployed to radio stations to enforce it. Newspapers were banned from criticizing the king, the government and the security forces. The only radio station allowed to broadcast news is the state-owned Radio Nepal, which many listeners say is biassed.
The Federation of Nepalese Journalists appealed on Tuesday to the Supreme Court to lift the ban, claiming it was illegal. Federation member Binod Dhungel said the court on Wednesday gave the government until next week to justify its existence.
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and other groups have urged the government to drop the ban.
Meanwhile, police arrested a former Cabinet minister Thursday after he refused to appear before an anti-graft commission, dragging him from his house in Katmandu and scuffling with his supporters.
Prakash Man Singh was minister for public works and transport before Gyanendra sacked the government , claiming he was forced to do so because of widespread state corruption the government's failure to control a communist rebellion.
Critics say the anti-graft commission was illegally set up and is being used by the monarch to clamp down on his political rivals. Six other former Cabinet ministers have already submitted themselves to the commission and been released on bail. Singh is the first to refuse to attend.
The commission has accused the seven of distributing $56,000 of government money to their supporters.
© 2005 The Associated Press