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Central & South Asia
Bangladesh ex-PM barred from flight
Sheikh Hasina is blocked from boarding a flight home to Bangladesh from London.
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2007 09:19 GMT

Sheikh Hasina speaks to journalists after she was prevented from returning home [REUTERS]

Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh's former prime minister, has been blocked from boarding a flight home from London after Dhaka's military-backed government barred her from returning.
 
An arrest warrant for Sheikh Hasina was issued by a Bangladesh court earlier on Sunday in connection with the deaths of four protestors in October.
The court labelled Hasina, who also faces charges of extortion, an "absconder" and ordered police to confiscate her property if she did not surrender by May 28, court officials said.
 
The Bangladesh government had asked airlines, immigration officials and security forces to block her return.
Return barred
 
Abdus Sobhan Golap, an aide who accompanied her to London's Heathrow Airport, said British Airways officials would not allow her on to the flight on "security grounds".
 

Bangladesh timeline

1947: It came into being as East Pakistan after Indian independence and partition.

1971: East Pakistan gained complete independence from Pakistan and the new country was called Bangladesh, with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman taking over as prime minister.

1982: General Hussain Mohammed Ershad came to power in an army coup, suspending the constitution and political parties but was forced to step down after massive demonstrations.

1991: Begum Khaleda Zia became the country's first woman prime minister.

1996: Another woman, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was elected to power.

2001: The position of prime minister returned to Zia.

2006: Zia's tenure ended in October and new elections were set for January 2007, but were called off when clashes between the rivals' supporters left 45 people dead.

British Airways said in a statement that it, along with other airlines, had been notified by the civil aviation authority in Bangladesh that a passenger had been banned from entering the country.

The airline said: "As a result we are not able to accept them for travel on BA."

Golap said Hasina, chief of the Awami League, argued for more than an hour with airline officials who showed her documents issued by the Bangladeshi government.
 
He said: "They said there were other passengers on the plane and it was going to be very insecure for her. They said it was better not to fly."
 
'Prepared to die'
 
Golap said Hasina told the officials that she wanted to return to fight the allegations against her.
 

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, Hasina said she was prepared to die for her cause.

 

She said: "I know that I haven't committed any such crime so I'm clear.

 

"When they put these charges, immediately after that, I decided to go back and face those cases. When I decided to go back to my country, then they put this ban."

 
Before the decision to bar her, the former prime minister had said: "I want to go back to my people, my country, this is my country. They have no right to ban me from going to my country."
 
Warrant challenge
 
Zillur Rahman, a senior Awami League leader, said the party planned to challenge the arrest warrant issued against Hasina.

Rahman said: "She is willing to come back to face the charges against her, but the government is barring her. How can she appear in court if she is not home?"
 

Hasina was also refused permission to board a British Airways flight to Dhaka last week. 

 

Authorities are warning that Hasina's attempted return to Bangladesh could trigger fresh violence in the country.

 

The arrest warrant was related to a case filed by a Jamaat-e-Islami official over street battles on October 28 that killed several people.

 

Rival faces exile

 

Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia, her main political rival and also a former prime minister, have been blamed for many of the nation's problems, including widespread corruption.

 

Khaleda's close associates have said authorities want her to go into exile in Saudi Arabia.

 

But Khaleda, who ended her five-year tenure as prime minister in October, has vowed to fight all charges at home.

 

An election had been planned for January but was called off after rival followers fought street battles for weeks, killing at least 45 people and injuring others.

 

The interim authority has barred both women from returning but the two political leaders say the move is a denial of democracy.

 

So far, 160 senior politicians have been arrested in Bangladesh in the anti-corruption crackdown.

 

Hasina said if she has been accused then she must be given the right to answer the charges.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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