The International Press Institute (IPI) today called for the immediate release of prominent Nepali publisher, editor and columnist Kanak Mani Dixit, who was arrested by authorities on corruption charges Friday.

Dixit, founder of the Kathmandu-based news magazine Himal Southasian, was taken from his home in Patan, Lalitpur district by some 20 police officers deployed by Nepal’s anti-graft body, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

He was later moved to the intensive care unit of Bir Hospital in Kathmandu to be treated for high blood pressure and a heart condition.

On Sunday, a special court ordered Dixit remanded into custody for 10 days, effective from the date of his arrest, while corruption charges levelled against him are investigated. The CIAA had reportedly asked for a 25-day judicial custody. The special court also ordered that Dixit be kept under special monitoring due to his poor health condition and that he be allowed to meet with his lawyers.

A spokesperson for the CIAA said that Dixit, who is also chairman of the public transport bus service in Nepal, was detained over allegations of his involvement in corruption, and not because of his work as a journalist. The CIAA accused Dixit of ignoring summons by the body and being “on the run.”

According to media reports, Dixit is accused of misusing his authority as chairman of the bus service to illegally amass property and deposit money earned through irregularities into overseas banks.

Dixit – publisher of the monthly Himal Southasian, the English-language Nepali Times and the Nepali-language Himal Khabarpatrika – is also a columnist for many local and international media outlets and has reported critically on war crimes and Nepal’s civil conflict. He reportedly denied not having cooperated with the CIAA and claimed that his arrest is part of a vendetta pursued against him by individuals in the government.

IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis called on Nepal to free the journalist absent a conviction or some showing that Dixit represents a threat to public safety.

“Kanak Mani Dixit is a vocal defender of human rights who has been harassed and detained by the authorities before,” Ellis said. “We urge the authorities to release Dixit immediately and to ensure complete transparency in the investigation against him.”

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists also condemned Dixit’s arrest, demanding a full investigation into the matter and “an immediate end to his physical and psychological harassment”.