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The killer nicknamed “The Serpent” arrives in France from Nepal

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PARIS — Self-confessed serial killer Charles Sobhraj arrived in France on Saturday after being released from a life sentence in a Nepalese prison.

Sobhraj, a 78-year-old French citizen, was serving time for the deaths of American and Canadian backpackers in the 1970s. He has in the past admitted to killing several Western tourists in Asia and was the subject of a series co-produced by the BBC and Netflix called “The Serpent”.

He arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris on Saturday on a flight from Nepal via Qatar, his French lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, told The Associated Press.

She welcomed his release. “I am very happy but very shocked that it took 19 years to get his normal freedom,” she said at the airport. She said her murder conviction in Nepal was a “fabricated case, based on falsified documents”.

She said Sobhraj will rest now that he is back in France.

The French government did not respond to requests for comment on whether it could face legal challenges in France.

Sobhraj is said to have killed at least 20 people in Afghanistan, India, Thailand, Turkey, Nepal, Iran and Hong Kong in the 1970s.

Sobhraj was held for two decades in the maximum security Tihar prison in New Delhi on suspicion of theft, but was deported without charge to France in 1997. He resurfaced in 2003 in Kathmandu and was sentenced the year next for the murders of American and Canadian backpackers in Nepal.

Life sentences in Nepal are 20 years. In announcing his release this week, Nepal’s Supreme Court said he had already served more than 75% of his sentence and had performed well in prison, making him eligible for release, and that he suffers from heart disease.

He was released on Friday and ordered to leave Nepal within 15 days. A ticket was bought with money received from a friend, and the French embassy in Kathmandu prepared the necessary travel documents allowing him to board a flight, lawyer Gopal Siwakoti Chitan said.

His nickname “Snake” comes from his reputation as an artist of disguise and escape. He was also known as “the bikini killer” because he often targeted young women.

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