Central & South Asia
Ex-Bangladesh PM in murder probe
Police to probe Begum Khaleda Zia's role in 2004 grenade attack on her rival.
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2007 15:06 GMT
Police did not investigate the attack during Khaleda Zia's rule that ended last October [EPA]

A Bangladesh court has ordered police to investigate charges of murder against Begum Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister, and 27 others for their alleged role in a deadly grenade attack in 2004 on an opposition rally, court officials have said.
The grenades exploded at a rally being addressed by Sheikh Hasina, Zia's rival, killing 23 members of the Awami League.
Hasina escaped unhurt but suffered partial loss of hearing due to the impact of the blasts.

Court order


About 150 people were wounded in the attack that took place on August 21, 2004, police and party officials said.


Badar Azizuddin, an Awami League supporter who was injured in the attack, filed the case, also accusing Lutfuzzaman Babar, a former junior home minister, and Muddabir Hossain, then police chief.


The court, on Tuesday, asked police to complete the investigations and submit a report as soon as possible.


Babar was himself detained by security forces last week in an anti-corruption sweep, and is being held in jail prior to trial.


Police did not probe the 2004 grenade assault, the country's worst attack on a political rally, during the rule of Zia, which ended last October.


"Government actions after the incident proved that the then prime minister and her colleagues engaged professional killers to eliminate opposition leader Sheikh Hasina once [and] for all," a court official quoted from the case petition.


Hasina and Zia alternated as prime ministers of the impoverished south Asian country for 15 years from 1991 but remained bitter foes, without speaking to each other for more than a decade.


Hasina herself faces charges of murder linked to political violence in the capital, following Zia's exit from power, which led to the imposition of emergency and ban on political activity by the interim authority.


The authority also cancelled an election planned for January 22.


Officials said the military-backed government is targeting both the ex-premiers in the anti-corruption drive as their family members and relatives have been detained on charges of graft, extortion and abuse of power.


Loan defaulters


Separately, the interim administration has barred loan defaulters from serving on the committees of business groups, which are seen as a stepping stone to politics.


Mohammad Ali, currently senior vice-president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry [FBCCI], is among the top loan defaulters, central bank officials said. He is viewed as a frontrunner for president in the next FBCCI election.


Many top trade body leaders also keep close links with major political parties or their leaders, giving them money in return for business favours, officials said.


Army-led security forces have detained two former FBCCI chiefs - Salman F Rahman and Abdul Awal Mintoo - for allegedly bribing the parties of Hasina and Zia.


Mintoo was detained in the latest anti-corruption sweep last week, while Salman was arrested in March.

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