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Nepal expels climber with 'Free Tibet' banner from Everest

April 24, 2008

April 23, 2008

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — An American mountain climber with a "Free Tibet"
banner was forced to turn back from Mount Everest, which Chinese
climbers carrying the Olympic torch plan to summit next month, officials
said Wednesday.

The climber was caught with the banner in his bags at Everest's base
camp, said officials at the Tourism Ministry in Nepal's capital,
Katmandu. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are
not authorized to speak to reporters.

Katmandu-based Himalayan Guides Treks and Expeditions, which got the
permit for the climber, identified him as William Brant Holland but was
not able to give details on his age or hometown.

The government has issued a notice to the agency seeking clarification
on the incident, said Umid Bhandari, an employee with the expedition

It was not clear what the government would do about Holland's case once
he returned to Katmandu. Officials said he would probably be banned from
mountaineering in Nepal for the next few years.

Holland is the first mountaineer to be stopped by soldiers and policemen
stationed on the Nepalese side of the world's highest mountain to
prevent anti-China protests during the planned torch run to the summit.

The climb will take place on the Chinese side of the mountain. But the
Nepalese government, complying with pressure from the Chinese
government, has posted soldiers on the southern side and banned climbing
near the summit between May 1-10 as a precaution.

Police and soldiers have been ordered to stop any protest on the
mountain using whatever means necessary, including use of weapons,
although the use of deadly force is authorized only as a last resort.

The torch relay — the longest in Olympic history — was meant to
highlight China's rising economic and political power. But activists
have seized on it as a platform to protest China's human rights record.
It has drawn particular ire from those denouncing China's rule in Tibet
following a a crackdown on demonstrations in the Himalayan region in March.

There are already dozens of mountaineers on Everest for the popular
spring climbing season. Climbers spend weeks acclimatizing and making
practice runs up the slopes before attempting the 29,035-foot summit.

They will be barred from going above Camp 2 at 21,300 feet until the
Chinese finish their torch run. The harsh weather on Everest allows only
about two windows — anywhere from a couple of days to a week — in May
when conditions are favorable enough for the push to the summit.
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