LONDON - Nepalese army colonel Kumar Lama, currently serving as a UN peacekeeper in South Sudan, appeared in a London court on Saturday charged with two counts of torture. The 46-year-old stands accused of inflicting severe pain or suffering on two men when he was in charge of a barracks during the Himalayan nation’s decade-long Maoist insurgency in 2005. Lama spoke only to confirm his identity when he appeared for a short hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. His arrest on Thursday at St Leonards-on-Sea in southeast England sparked a formal protest by the Nepalese government to the British ambassador in Kathmandu and a demand for his release.

Two Nepalese embassy diplomats were in court. Lama, who has indefinite leave to remain in Britain, spent a Christmas break in England with his family and was due to return to South Sudan on Saturday. The court heard that his wife is a nurse and they have two children: a 21-year-old university student and a 17-year-old in secondary school. Lama previously served as a UN peacekeeper in Sierra Leone and twice in Lebanon, the court heard. Scotland Yard said the arrest did not take place at the request of Nepali authorities. He was arrested under British law, which allows prosecutors to act against people suspected of torture no matter where it took place in the world. The court heard that Attorney General Dominic Grieve, the British government’s top legal officer, gave permission Friday for the charges to be brought.