Nepal media group chief arrested over citizenship card issue

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - The chairman of one of Nepal's largest media groups was arrested after a complaint of a discrepancy in his citizenship card, police said on Wednesday, drawing criticism from political leaders in the Himalayan country.

Kailash Sirohiya, head of the Kantipur media group, which publishes the widely read Nepali daily, Kantipur, and also owns a radio station and TV channel, was arrested on Tuesday at his office in Kathmandu after a complaint was lodged with the Dhanusa district police in southern Nepal this month.

“We have received a complaint that the number of his citizenship card is the same as that of the citizenship card of another person,” Dhanusa district police information officer Ranjan Awa told Reuters.

He was arrested pending an investigation and will appear in court on Wednesday, police said.

Sirohiya said he was not guilty, as the number of the citizenship card is generated by the issuing authority.

He said the arrest was an "act of vengeance" following reports in the Kantipur newspaper that the deputy prime minister in charge of the home ministry, Rabi Lamichhane, had illegally taken large amounts of money from small businesses when he was a television show presenter before joining politics.

Lamichhane, who has denied the allegations, was not immediately available for comment.

Political leaders have criticised the arrest.

“It appears that the home minister was acting in a way of vengeance,” said Nepali Congress spokesperson Prakash Sharan Mahat.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma. Editing by Gerry Doyle)