Trial of ex-Bangladesh PM begins

Officials say Hasina took bribes in a power-plant deal, but she denies wrongdoing.

    Hasina, who heads the Awami League, has been
    under detention since July last year [AFP]

    Another court on Sunday charged Hasina; Sheikh Selim, her cousin and former minister; and Sheikh Rehana, Hasina's only sister, with extorting some 30 million taka from a businessman when she was in power.
     
    Hasina, who has denied any wrongdoing, has been under detention since July last year.
     
    "The court has accepted the charge against ex-PM Sheikh Hasina for accepting kickbacks from a firm while permitting it to set up a power plant," a senior official of the anti-corruption agency told Reuters.
     
    The agency said she had accepted a bribe of 30 million Bangladeshi taka ($440,000).
     
    Other co-accused
     
    The court also issued arrest warrants against eight other co-accused, including leaders of Hasina's party and former government officials, for the power-plant deal.
     
    The barge-mounted power plant was set up in the southwestern city of Khulna during Hasina's tenure as prime minister from 1996 to 2001.
     
    Hasina faces another extortion charge, due in court soon, involving the alleged extortion of 50 million taka from another businessman during her term in office.
     
    Hasina was arrested in July and since then she has been detained at a house in Dhaka's parliament compound.
     
    Begum Khaleda Zia, Hasina's rival and a former prime minister, is being held in another house in the same compound, and she too is likely to face trial for corruption soon.
     
    Bangladesh has been ruled by an army-backed interim government since the middle of last year.
     
    Government offer
     
    Meanwhile, the government has reportedly offered talks Hasina's Awami League (AL) party aimed at resolving an impasse over elections meant to restore democracy.
     
    The proposal was made to Motia Chowdhury, a senior AL politician, by a government official of ministerial rank on Tuesday.
     
    "We will discuss the offer in the highest level of the party later on Wednesday," Motia, a former minister, told the Reuters news agency.
     
    Political parties have demanded the lifting of a state of emergency to allow then to resume full political activity and want an election to be held by July.
     
    But the government reiterated that the election would be held by the end of this year, according to its "election road map".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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