Bangladesh's army-backed interim government last week withdrew a ban on Hasina returning to the country from abroad.

 

Grave charges

   

A court also suspended an arrest warrant last week issued for her alleged involvement in deaths related to street violence between rival political parties in October.

   

Hasina also faces a charge of extorting about $430,000 from a businessman in 1998.

 

She has denied both the charges and vowed to fight them in court.

 

Hasina, daughter of Bangladesh's indepedence leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is the leader of the Awami League. She is a political opponent of Begum Khaleda Zia, leader of the rival Bangladesh National Party.

 

Zia is the widow of Zia-ur-Rahman, a former military ruler.

 

Hasina and Zia have alternated as prime ministers since 1990 and are blamed by many for the country's poverty and endemic corruption.

 

The military-backed interim government, which assumed power early this year after general elections were postponed, initially tried to exile the two women, but then backed down after widespread criticism.

 

While Bangladeshis have generally applauded the interim government's crackdown on corruption, many felt that the attempt to exile the two leaders went too far.