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Frenchman Accused in Tourist Murders to Marry, Seek Bail

January 6, 1996

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ An alleged international con man once wanted in eight countries, Charles Sobhraj spent two decades behind bars in India to avoid trial in the slayings of 14 tourists in Thailand.

Now, with the statute of limitations on the Thai killings finally expired, the Vietnamese-born Frenchman says he’s ready to walk free, marry his jailhouse sweetheart, and maybe accept a deal for a book or film looking back on his criminal career.

``I don’t think I have to worry about money any more. After my release, I can go further with the negotiations. Prices will go up,″ Sobhraj, 51, said after a court appearance Friday, preliminary to proceedings next week that may lead to his release.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Sobhraj was a suspect from Greece to Hong Kong, in crimes ranging from car theft to murder.

Two books already have been written about the exploits of Sobhraj, who studied psychology at the Sorbonne in Paris and allegedly used his smooth style and fluency in languages to prey on his victims, who often were tourists.

With Thailand seeking to try him on 1975 charges in the tourists’ killings, Sobhraj until now has declined to seek bail in India pending trial there in a 1986 prison break.

Thailand’s 20-year-old arrest warrant expired Dec. 15. The Thai and Indian governments are expected to tell an Indian judge by Tuesday that Thailand does not intend to pursue Sobhraj’s extradition in the killings.

In that case, Sobhraj said, he will finally apply for release on a $1,571 bond.

Sobhraj appeared in court Friday in jeans and a golf cap, under the guard of two dozen armed police. At his side was his German fiancee, herself in jail on charges of trying to smuggle 125 pounds of marijuana out of India.

Their jailhouse romance was like a ``fairy tale,″ said Jacqueline Kuster, 35, of Stuttgart, Germany.

``It’s quite difficult to fall in love in jail and then to the most popular person there. Sometimes, I can’t believe it myself,″ she said.

``I love Charles dearly. I think he has changed. I don’t think about his past,″ she said.

Sobhraj already has served time in India on a jewel theft, and escaped conviction in two killings there.

``I have faced a court of law in India on those charges and the court has decided that I am innocent,″ he said.

Although denying guilt in the Thai murders, Sobhraj conceded, vaguely, that, ``I did something wrong in my past, and I regret it.″

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