Palo Alto man languishes in a Nepal jail

Wolf Price, promoter of women's education, has been held five weeks without charges

Paly graduate Wolf Price smiles while holding a Nepalese girl he has assisted. He is being held in a Kathmandu, Nepal jail on false accusations, according to his mother, Mary Bartnikowski. Photo courtesy of Mary Bartnikowski.

This story has been updated with additional information.

A Palo Alto man who has spent years helping Nepalese girls and women advance their education is locked in a jail in Nepal on what his mother called false accusations.

Wolf Price, a Palo Alto High School graduate who started the Beyond the Four Walls Endowment Fund to change the status and fortunes of girls and women in the impoverished country, was arrested on April 4 and taken to jail without a translator, his mother, Mary Bartnikowski, said.

He was arrested shortly after recording an altercation between a 15-year-old boy and the teen's sister, Bartnikowski said, but the arrest may also be due to controversial photographs that recently surfaced of Price. According to Nepalese news reports, Price had posed in wedding garb with the erotic actress Archana Paneru in what she later admitted was a sham marriage she had arranged to allegedly garner publicity.

Price, 31, wrote a 2010 guest opinion in the Palo Alto Weekly about his decision to forego an expensive college education in exchange for a worldwide education by traveling the globe. Growing up in a family of professional photographers dating back to his great-grandfather, he started his own photography career at age 14. He began his world travels at age 17, funding himself through photography exhibitions, he said in his opinion column.

Nepal became his muse. For 12 years he has made numerous documentary films and taken photographs about life there. Price started funding education projects after he made a documentary film, "Within the Four Walls," about the plight of women and girls in Nepal. He made the film, he said, after having a dream while on a 145-mile hike around the Annapurna mountain range in the country's central region.

"Three grandmother voices gave their blessing and guidance. Pushing me to create a social documentary for Nepalese women and girls. To archive native history before it disappears from human knowledge," he wrote in the introduction to the film, which he began in 2010. The film kicked off the endowment fund, which educates girls and women who otherwise lead lives of indentured servitude, consigned to isolation, multiple pregnancies and heavy labor.

Price has built homes, started businesses for the Nepalese people and saved the lives of people and their animals by paying their medical expenses. In 2015, after the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people in the region and displaced thousands, the endowment funded and helped the women build a shelter.

The endowment is building tech resource hubs managed by women. It also purchased land for a permanent eco-village. Funds give one-year grants for promising and impoverished girls to take English and computer courses; two-year college scholarships are also provided.

Prior to his arrest, Price had been bringing children out of the jungle to take part in intercultural projects. One of the girls, the sister of his accuser, was involved in many of the projects. Her brother, who had only recently arrived, was troubled and had been arrested after trying to steal money, Bartnikowski said.

"Wolf got him out of jail. I guess no good deed goes unpunished," she said.

The teen then started a physical altercation with his sister. Bartnikowski said at one point he allegedly pounded his head on the ground to make it look as though Price had hurt him -- a story he told to police.

Bartnikowski has seen the video her son took, which shows that he was trying to diffuse the situation. He wanted to bring in police and a translator to try to solve the problem, she said.

Price has been held in the nation's capital, Kathmandu, without being charged for any crime. He was able to text his mother that he was in jail before his phone was confiscated, she said. He does not have access to a phone, laptop or even a pen, but he has been able to sometimes borrow the latter from a guard.

A friend of Bartnikowski who happened to be in Kathmandu has stayed in Nepal to bring Price food, books and other items. She keeps him in touch with his Nepalese attorney and contacts his mother with updates on her son.

Bartnikowski, a professional photographer who has traveled to Nepal five times, has seen the impact of her son's work.

"Everyone tells me the same thing: He has such a pure heart. He just wants to help people in this very difficult country. I raised him to be a feminist, and I feel there's been a backlash for that," she said.

The U.S. Embassy was surprisingly unhelpful, she said. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office made contact on her behalf with embassy officials, who said they had allocated Price a lawyer. But Bartnikowski said no lawyer had materialized, so she found one on her own. Price also only received one visit from an embassy representative, she said.

"They weren't really monitoring the situation," she added.

Embassy officials in Nepal did not respond to a request for comment. But State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs doesn't pay for legal or medical bills and it doesn't serve as official translators or interpreters, according to the agency's website.

Ashley Garrigus, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, sent an updated email on Thursday, May 17:

"We are aware of the arrest of U.S. citizen Wolf Price in Nepal in April. The Department of State takes its obligation to assist U.S. citizens overseas seriously. Since Mr. Price’s arrest, consular officers have visited him. We will continue to provide appropriate consular services to Mr. Price."

She referred further questions to Price's attorney.

Garrigus said earlier that consulates and the U.S. State Department are limited in what they can do. She could not comment on Price's case without his written permission.

The embassy can provide a list of local attorneys who speak English, contact family or friends of a detainee, visit the detained citizen and ensure that the incarcerated person receives appropriate medical care.

"We can't negotiate to get people out of jail. There is a judicial process," within the country, she said. Only in very exceptional circumstances, such as when the three Americans in North Korea were not detained on legitimate charges, will the agency intervene, she added.

It's not unusual in many countries for people to be held for long periods of time without charges, she said, unlike in the United States.

Through his mother, Price released a statement on Thursday, May 10, regarding his situation, which is posted on the GoFundMe page she created to raise money for his release. GoFundMe donations help pay for his legal fees, food and a four-day emergency hospital stay after he became ill due to the jail conditions. He noted that most prisoners can remain in jail for up to 90 days.

Price sleeps on the floor with only a blanket, lying alongside 100 other inmates, most of whom are addicts going through various stages of withdrawal, he said in his statement.

"The shower room is a moldy room with three drums of water. You go there to get water for flushing the toilet or to wash a plate without soap, or a shower, wash hands etc.," he wrote. There is no ventilation, and he can never go outside. He can wash his clothes but he cannot dry them.

"It's only been five weeks, but I forget the feeling of being free. I try to remind myself to appreciate that at least I am alive. I'm not being tortured.

"And whenever this dark time ends I will surely appreciate life a lot more and the simplest things that freedom allows."

On Wednesday, May 16, his mother posted another letter from Price.

"I'm desperate to get out but I have no idea when that will happen," Price wrote.

Bartnikowski said her son has a court hearing this week, but she doesn't know for sure the day or time. Few if any of the witnesses have come forward. She thinks they are probably afraid.

But the girl whose brother attacked her has now made a statement saying that the accusations are false. She has made an arduous 12-hour journey from the jungle and is expected to testify at the hearing. Bartnikowski hopes her son will finally be freed but said she and Price have heard that promise before.

"There have been so many twists and turns," she said.

According to the Centre for Investigative Journalism, Nepal, many innocent people are imprisoned throughout Nepal due to gross negligence by police, government lawyers and judges.

Correction: The number of persons killed in the 2015 earthquake has been corrected to include the region.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

About the video: "Within the Four Walls," a documentary film by Wolf Price, of Palo Alto, chronicles the plight of women and girls in Nepal. Video obtained via Wolf Price's YouTube channel.

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Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2018 at 10:48 am

[Post removed.]

25 people like this
Posted by Frightening
a resident of Portola Valley
on May 16, 2018 at 10:56 am

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

This is frightening and have you contacted Anna Eschoo, Kamal Harris and Diane Fienstein? They would be able to help you. This is what they do. They will have contacts at the State Department etc.

I know you must be in agony. Please keep us all informed and everyone reading, I hope you'll donate.

14 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Stanford
on May 16, 2018 at 11:29 am

My gut is telling me this is a simple case of jealousy, resentment, etc., leading to the person who arrested Wolf Price with the expectation of a big bribe(s).
Contact more senators. Have relatives and friends contact their senators in their states. How about putting this in the NY Times? Contact 48 HRS, 20/20, etc. to do a special story for national TV.

Didn't something similar to this happen to the woman who was behind the very successful revolutionary microloans in Bangladesh successfully helping impoverished women?

19 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 16, 2018 at 11:39 am

Another excellent contact is the "American Center for Law & Justice", headed by Jay Seculo.

ACLJ attorneys help Americans held in foreign countries all the time. They even help foreign women & men being held in their own countries, on bogus charges & false claims.

They have the wherewithal to draw attention to this, and to potentially help this wonderful young man to be released. The world needs more men like him. He deserves help.

10 people like this
Posted by Mary Bartnikowski
a resident of Downtown North
on May 16, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Thank you concerned friends and colleagues,

I appreciate your help so much, I have contacted Dianne Feinstein's office and they got back to me but they listened to the US embassy who didn't tell them the truth about their involvement which has been totally lacking.

I would love to have the NY Times do a story on this.

I'll keep trying to get media coverage and if anyone who reads this has connections to the New York Times, or a national paper or TV station please do put me in touch.

My son Wolf needs to get out now and I'm in this nightmare of proving his innocence when he has done nothing wrong.

Heartbreaking and frightening.

Thank you for your help!
Here is his gofundme page for updates from him
Web Link

you can get in touch with me at
Mary Bartnikowski

26 people like this
Posted by Jen
a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Before everyone gets emotional about this, it would be helpful to know more about why he was arrested. The assumption this article makes is that the charges are trumped up, that’s there is no validity to them. What are the charges? Could it be that the US embassy wasn’t interested in helping because they figured he was guilty? The assumption the reporter makes here is that the police in a country like Napal are always wrong. But Americans do commit crimes when they’re overseas — drugs, prostitution, even helping terrorists. I’m not saying this guy did anything like that, but I find it suspicious that this story doesn’t even say why he was arrested. His mother must know. Let’s hold off on offering our thoughts and support until we hear more of the story.

12 people like this
Posted by Jen
a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2018 at 1:02 pm

His mom’s go fund me page offers a clue about the charges. She posted a communication from her son that alludes to “one fake accusation by a 15-year-old boy” ... it would be helpful to know what that accusation is, since this statement leaves a lot to the imagination. The mother also says she was told by her son that he was being held for “recently posing for a photo with a controversial Nepali public figure.” Who is this public figure? That could mean a lot of things. Again, I’m waiting for some clarity about this.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2018 at 1:21 pm

Is there any indication that foreigners in general or this man in particular are treated worse than local prisoners in this country's justice system?

20 people like this
Posted by Appalled
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 16, 2018 at 2:07 pm

What is wrong with you people? This mother’s child is in jail in Nepal. Haters keep your noise to yourselves. If you feel you would like to donate, do it! As the friend of a person being held in a prison in a foreign country, for educating girls, he’s been there for 10 years. They charged him with a drug charge that was completely false. His wife was assaulted then deported, he’s still there.
Have some compassion.

8 people like this
Posted by Colleen
a resident of Los Altos
on May 16, 2018 at 2:43 pm

There is so much to this story that isn't clear. As others mentioned, what are the charges? Also, why does the Go Fund me page ask for help with housing for him in Palo Alto? Is he planning to abandon his endeavors in India? If so, Would he not stay with his family..?

11 people like this
Posted by Sheri
a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2018 at 3:07 pm

Sheri is a registered user.

For those asking what the charges are, note that the article states "Price has been held in the nation's capital, Kathmandu, without being charged for any crime."

3 people like this
Posted by Jen
a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2018 at 3:39 pm

[Post removed.]

14 people like this
Posted by Tameeka
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 16, 2018 at 5:45 pm

I'm so sorry to hear about this. I attended High School with Wolf and am really amazed by the work he's been doing through his organization. It's genuinely awe-inspiring. My heart goes out to him and his family. If there's anything I can do to help beyond the gofundme page (heading there now) please do let me know.

I'll be sending up prayers for a safe return.

-tameeka bennett

Like this comment
Posted by Jinomas
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Who is his lawyer?

12 people like this
Posted by Yaya
a resident of College Terrace
on May 16, 2018 at 6:03 pm

The only way to get him help is by pressuring the politicians constantly, anybody who will listen.Did you contact Mr Richard Blum the Nepalese Honorary Consulate General in San Francisco? . 415 434-1111 415 434 -3130 I think he’s Dian Feinstein's husband. I will call and voice my concerns to Dian Feinstein,Anna Eshoo,Kamala Harris along with Joe Simitian. Keep strong , sending you our every good wish for a quick and positive outcome! Additional consulates:New York,Chicago,San Diego ,Sacramento ,Hilo,Los Angeles ,Baltimore and Washington DC


Like this comment
Posted by Jen
a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2018 at 6:31 pm

[Post removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Jinomas
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2018 at 6:37 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

9 people like this
Posted by Mary Bartnikowski
a resident of Downtown North
on May 16, 2018 at 7:51 pm

Thank you Yaya,

I will do just that, call Richard Blum, yes he is married to Dianne Feinstein, and thank you so much for including the phone numbers, yes you're right I am going to get more people to notify them all, working on Anna Eshoo right now.

And I so appreciate you calling them as well to voice your concerns, this is a human rights atrocity and after all the hard work he has accomplished in Nepal to be jailed!

Let's get him free and back to his home in Palo Alto after 12 years in Nepal and bringing donations from American Apparel, GoPro, Motorola, JP Morgan, and so many private investors from Silicon Valley and the USA.

Mary Bartnikowski
sorry for the incorrect email address shown in another posting at the top of this thread, there is no way to edit it

6 people like this
Posted by Vee
a resident of Downtown North
on May 16, 2018 at 10:29 pm

There are so many things in this article they are not true. First number of people dead from earthquake is more than 8000 not just 300. Second thing when someone foreign nationals get prisoned, the police will notify their embassy. Third thing is jail in nepal are not that bad as article mentions.If he has been living in nepal for 12 years, he should have good knowledge about local languages just to communicate. Usually without big issue Nepal police doesnot care to arrest when it comes to foreign nationals. Mother should directly call us embassy in nepal and ask about the case. They are very active in nepal.

Like this comment
Posted by Kathmandu, Nepal
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 17, 2018 at 4:32 am

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on May 17, 2018 at 5:10 am

@ Kathmandu, Nepal

How do you know this? Please identify the source of this information.

5 people like this
Posted by Jen
a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2018 at 4:21 pm

What do the police in Kathmandu have to say about his arrest?

Like this comment
Posted by Kathmandu, Nepal
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 17, 2018 at 5:28 pm

[Post removed until accuracy can be established.]

Like this comment
Posted by Rob
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 17, 2018 at 11:26 pm

[Post removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 20, 2018 at 2:29 pm

As a Nepalese, I do know that one cannot be held in Jail in Nepal without a formal charge. If there is no formal charged being filed a person cannot be detained for more than 24 hours and that's the law. If he is due to appear at the court, there is a formal charged filed but the article does not mention it.

The article mentions about the actress Archana Paneru and she is a porn star not an actress. There is way more to this story then it's mentioned on this article.

Like this comment
Posted by Eric Fairman
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2018 at 6:28 pm

Just a comment re. jails in Kathmandu. They are exactly as described...if not worse! I was jailed for 24 hrs in an overcrowded police cell in Boudha, Kathmandu. Concrete floors. No windows. had to take turns sitting/lying on the floor. Far from adequate ventilation...again, had to queue for 10 mins t the one door. Toilet...a squat one. Water from a bucket...washing, drinking...everything. In the west, the police would arrest and charge you for keeping a pig in such conditions!

6 people like this
Posted by Make aga....
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 12, 2018 at 8:15 pm

Thot prez could get Americans released?


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