Collector abduction case: Mediators say more time needed

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Bhubaneswar, Feb 20 (PTI) Maoist-handpicked mediatorstoday said "more time" was needed to secure the release ofabducted Malkangiri District Collector R V Krishna and anengineer after the first round of talks with Orissa governmentamid moves indicating that some Naxals may be released on bailin line with the extremists'' demand.

30-year-old Krishna, a 2005 batch IAS officer, andjunior engineer Pabitra Majhi, abducted by the Naxals onFebruary 16 from Chitrakonda area, are safe, Home Secretary UN Behera said after talks with the two Andhra Pradesh-basedmediators Prof Hargopal and Prof Someswar Rao.

"We are working out modalities on how to end thehostage crisis and facilitate the release of Krishna and thejunior engineer.... It may take more time," Hargopal said,maintaining that the talks process has just started.

Behera said, "We are in the process of discussions.

Whether some people will go to Malkangiri as part of the talksprocess, will have to be decided."

He, however, made it clear that the mediators were notgoing to the district because of health reasons.

Orissa''s Home Secretary U N Behera and Panchayati RajSecretary S N Tripathy represented the state government in thetalks as Krishna and Majhi spent the fifth day in captivity.

While the mediators showed keenness to resolve thecrisis, the state government was examining Maoist demand forrelease of some rebel leaders who were languishing indifferent jails at present, sources said.

The interlocutors are believed to have pressed forrelease of certain key Maoists like Ganti Prasadam on bail,they said. Hargopal had earlier said the jailed ultra couldplay a significant role in negotiating with the rebel leadersfor freeing the abducted officials.

In a related development, Prasadam, who is jailed inAndhra Pradesh, was handed over to police for producing himbefore an Orissa court.

Prasadam, also the convener of Martyrs Friends andRelatives Committee, was lodged in the Ongole Prison in AndhraPradesh''s Prakasam district since February 7.

He and three others had moved bail applications in acourt in Koraput, Orissa. While their bail plea was rejected,the court had directed that Prasadam be produced before it byFebruary 25.

"Following the court directive, we handed overPrasadam to the local police for production before the Koraputcourt. Either the local police can produce Prasadam before thecourt or they can also hand him over to the Orissa Policewhich in turn can produce him before the court," Ongole PrisonSuperintendent V Phaniraju told PTI over phone. .

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