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Central & South Asia
Bangladesh leader in legal victory
Court says corruption case against former prime minister is illegal.
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2008 13:51 GMT

 Hasina is accused of extorting $435,000
from a power-company owner [AFP]


A Bangladeshi court has ruled that Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the detained former prime minister, could not be tried for corruption under emergency laws.
 
The high court in Dhaka said on Wednesday that the trial was illegal, effectively throwing into doubt all other completed or pending corruption cases pushed by the authorities.
"The high court has also quashed the case against Hasina. The judgment has established the rule of law, supremacy of the constitution and the supremacy of the human rights in the country," Rafiq-ul-Haque, Hasina's chief lawyer, said.

"It's a historic judgment. It will benefit hundreds of thousands of victims put to jail under the emergency laws," he said.

 

But Kamrul Islam, her other lawyer, said the victory would be  short-lived, with the government set to take the matter to the supreme court, a body that has in the past sided with the authorities.

  

"We will fight in the supreme court, although we have very dim hope for a positive verdict. In the past, the supreme court's appellate division has overturned all the high court verdicts in favour of the government," he said.

 

Extortion charge

 

The former prime minister, who led the country from 1996 to 2001, is one of around 150 high-profile figures arrested as part of an anti-graft drive by the emergency government, which took office in January 2007.

 

Hasina, the leader of the Awami League party, went on trial for corruption late last month, facing accusations that she extorted $435,000 from a power company owner.

  

She has denied the charges, arguing that the military-backed emergency government was merely trying to destroy her political career.

  

Maximum sentence

 

Hasina faces a maximum 14 years in jail if convicted. The trial is expected to be concluded within the next two months, as stipulated by the country's emergency rules.

  

Khaleda Zia, the country's last elected prime minister, is also in detention on corruption charges. She and Hasina are bitter rivals, and have been blamed for 16 years of misrule and rampant corruption.

  

The country has been under emergency rule since January 11 last year, when polls were cancelled after months of violence over vote-rigging allegations made by the Awami League against Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Source:
Agencies
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