WORLD : Nepal to Free Jailed Christians

<i> From Times Staff and Wire Service Reports </i>

Nepal, the world’s only Hindu kingdom, will free all Christian prisoners who were jailed by the former government for illegal proselytizing, the royal palace said today.

The palace said in a statement King Birendra has “granted amnesty to all religious prisoners” on the advice of Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai in view of the “new political environment . . . in the country.”

Currently, 29 Christians, including 14 children younger than age 18, are serving sentences for proselytizing. There are no religious prisoners of other faiths. A human rights report recently said 144 other Christians are in police custody across the country facing trial.