KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A Canadian man has left Nepal. Robert Penner was expelled for posting messages on social media that could disturb social harmony, officials said.
“He was not abiding by our laws and was investigated for suspicious activities,” said Home Ministry official Yadav Koirala.
Penner, who has worked for a software company in Nepal for three years, was arrested on May 2. His lawyer had approached the Supreme Court to stay the government’s decision pending an appeal, but his time ran out before the court heard the case.
Penner had spoken out on a number of controversial issues, including a new constitution adopted last September and the government’s handling of violent ethnic protests.
Members of the Madhesi minority have opposed the constitution, saying it gave them a small state that did not cover their population. Protests by the group left more than 50 people dead and blocked the border with India, creating severe shortages of fuel and medicines all over Nepal.
Penner also recently tweeted criticism of the country’s anti-corruption watchdog for its handling of the arrest of a Nepali magazine publisher and editor who has since been freed on the orders of the Supreme Court.
The immigration department said he had violated the terms of his visa by “commenting on internal matters of the country, inciting conflict and disturbing social harmony.”
Penner had been working in Nepal for the technology outsourcing company CloudFactory, which said on May 4 it had decided to “discontinue” his employment.
“His cancellation of visa over tweets is arbitrary. It is not suitable for a democratic country,” said Penner’s lawyer, Dipendra Jha.
The constitution guarantees freedom of speech and it is rare for foreign citizens to be expelled from Nepal for criticizing the government.
Ruth Bayang contributed to this report.