Six politicians or activists, including former Junior Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat, were released on Wednesday in Kathmandu after weeks of detention, Chief District Officer Baman Prasad Neupane said on Thursday.

 

Two others were released elsewhere.

 

The detainees included Prakash Sharan Mahat, a former state minister of foreign affairs, and Nilamber Acharya, a former diplomat.

 

Police have detained more than 500 politicians, human rights activists and journalists since Gyanendra, a constitutional monarch, seized power on 1 February, suspending many civil liberties.

 

Several leaders of political parties have been put under house arrest.

 

The house arrest rules for some of the political leaders have been relaxed, the Kathmandu Post newspaper said.

 

Madhav Nepal, chief of the Communist Party of Nepal, was seen travelling in a car in Kathmandu, although security officials escorting did not allow him to speak to reporters, the newspaper said.

 

Several politicians were released two weeks ago.

 

Mobile phone service

 

Meanwhile, a senior Nepalese telecommunications official said some mobile phone service could be restored soon.

 

Madankaji Shakya, an official at Nepal Telecom, said post-paid mobile services could resume within a week, the state-run Rising Nepal newspaper reported.

 

Mobile phone service was shut down, apparently to prevent opposition supporters from organising protest rallies - now illegal under the state of emergency - and alerting each other about police presence.

 

But the shutdown has hurt common people because a third of Nepal's phone lines are cellular.

 

On Wednesday, the country's main royalist party, the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party, urged Gyanendra to lift curbs on political parties, release all detainees and restore fundamental rights.

 

Rebellion

 

The king said he imposed the emergency because the government failed to quash a Maoist rebellion that has killed more than 10,500 people.

 

The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, have been fighting since 1996 to abolish the monarchy and establish a communist state in the impoverished Himalayan nation.

 

The king's actions have provoked an international outcry, with several nations cutting aid that Nepal needs to battle the rebels and fight widespread poverty.