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The Nepalese authorities have released nine Tibetans who crossed the border from China without travel documents two years ago after an overseas Tibetan organization provided money for their fines, RFA's Tibetan service reports.

"This is a blessing and on behalf of all those who are released, I would like to pray for the end of communism, long life for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and fulfillment of the Tibetan struggle for truth," one of the released prisoners told RFA shortly after arriving at a reception center for Tibetans in Nepalese capital.

"I also would like to thank the good works of the Tibetan Reception Center and other organizations who helped our release," the man, who goes by a single name, Heruka, said.

Wangchuk Tsering, a spokesperson for the Tibetan exile government in Kathmandu, told RFA the nine men were among a group of 16 or 17 Tibetans who arrived across the border and were arrested by the Nepalese authorities in August 2001 for failing to carry with them the required travel documents. They were subsequently sentenced to lengthy jail terms.

"There were only two solutions," the spokesperson said. "Either they could be released either with legal action or pay the fine and be bailed out. The legal initiative did not yield any result."

"Recently we got them released by paying the fine with the help of some foreign organizations," he said.

He said the organization concerned was the Himalaya Foundation, based in San Francisco.

A group of five or six Tibetans had already been released last year, the spokesperson added, mostly children and a pregnant woman.

The other eight released men were named as Sonam Gyatso, Sakya Lama, Sangyal Dhondup, Lobsang Dorjee, Dukar, Choying Dorjee, and Palden Gyatso. Groups of Tibetans are frequently arrested for entering Nepal illegally.

They are often on their way to the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, where the Tibetan exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, lives with the rest of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

In May, Nepal expelled a group of 18 Tibetans, returning them to China in the face of widespread criticism and appeals from the European Union, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The Dalai Lama, who has described Chinese policies in Tibet as "cultural genocide,� has run a government-in-exile from India since fleeing Tibet following a failed uprising in 1959. However, he says he wants greater autonomy, not independence, for the Himalayan region.

Each year, hundreds of Tibetans travel through Nepal on their way to Dharamsala in India, where the Dalai Lama has lived since his departure from Tibet more than 40 years ago. They are usually required to stay in a transit camp in Kathmandu pending interviews with the UNHCR, which facilitates their travel to India. Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize three decades later for his non-violent opposition to the Chinese presence in Tibet.#####


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