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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2709

Her First Court Appearance : Khaleda Zia wants emergency to go by June, polls by Oct 2008

Dhaka ,03 June (Asiantribune.com) : In her first appearance at the court since her arrest, former premier of Bangladesh Begum Khaleda Zia demanded withdrawal the state of emergency by June and general elections by October this year.

She came down heavily on the caretaker government, saying it is hatching conspiracy to make the country "dysfunctional" instead of holding the polls, its main task.

The BNP chairperson was hauled before the Special Court-9, set up on the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban premises, on a blue jeep amid tight security.

Detained former prime minister and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia is accused in three cases filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) during the rule of the interim government.

Khaleda said the country cannot be run by "agents" who are like parasites. "The government is trying to cling to power backed by different forces."

It maybe recalled the three cases of corruption were filed against Begum Zia by the Anticorruption Commission.

The first case -- Gatco graft case -- was filed on September 2 with Tejgaon Police Station, while the Niko scam case was filed with the same police station on December 9 last year.

The third case -- Barapukuria coalmine graft case -- was filed with Shahbagh Police Station on February 26 this year.

The ACC filed the Gatco graft case against 13 including Khaleda and her son Arafat Rahman Koko on charge of irregularities and abuse of power in awarding Gatco the contract for container handling at depots in Dhaka and Chittagong.

Khaleda and Koko were charged with influencing the tender process, while the CPA officials were charged with helping Gatco win the deal ignoring the tender evaluation committee's report that described the firm as unfit.

But during investigation ACC found involvement of 11 others and pressed charges on May 13.

The case was transferred to the Special Court-3 set up on the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban premises on May 28.

The anti-graft watchdog pressed charges on May 5 against Khaleda and 10 others for abuse of power and graft in awarding a gas exploration and extraction deal to Canadian company Niko.

According to the charge sheet, the accused in collaboration with each other struck an anti-state "joint venture agreement" with Niko, causing a loss of Tk 13,777 crore to the state coffers.

The case was transferred to the Special Court-9 on May 20.

The ACC filed the Barapukuria coal case against Khaleda and 15 others including 10 former ministers from BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami for graft in awarding the coalmine operation contract to a Chinese company on February 26, reports the daily star, Dhaka.

The military-backed government, which came to power in January 2007 after emergency rule was imposed and elections cancelled over allegations of vote-rigging, has detained tens of thousands of party activists in a bid to clean-up the country's graft-ridden politics.

More than 150 top politicians, including two ex-premiers who lead the two sidelined parties, have been arrested during the drive. Dozens of former ministers and ex-lawmakers have been jailed for up to 20 years by government's anti-corruption courts.

Both main parties say they will take part in talks to restore democracy only if their leaders are released.

A Bangladesh court earlier this month charged former Awami League Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed with taking bribes as part of a corruption crackdown by the army-backed emergency government.

Her bitter rival former BNP Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has also been detained as part of the crackdown. She is being held on charges of graft linked to the awarding of a multi-million-dollar government contract (AFP).

The fate of the people is not leased out to any person or any political party, and the country is not anyone's family inheritance, eminent jurist Dr Kamal Hossain, said on May 31.

He made the comment during a discussion meeting titled 'National dialogues, upcoming general election, and the will of the people' held in the Liberation War Museum in the capital, organized by Shommilito Shamajik Andolon (SSA), a citizens' platform.

"The fate of the people is not leased out to any person or any political party. The idea that nothing can be done without some specific persons' permission, is intolerable. The country does not belong to any party," Dr Kamal Hossain quipped.

He also said, "If somebody threatens to foil the election we the eight crore voters will make the election happen by casting our votes."

About public expectations regarding the ongoing dialogues between the military backed caretaker government and political parties, Dr Kamal said the people want the dialogues to be successful and no one has the right to obstruct realization of the public will.

Bangladeshi authorities have detained nearly 30 political activists, including a former member of parliament, in a new wave of arrests across the west of the country, police said Saturday, reports AFP.

The arrests came days after the two main political parties told the emergency government they would boycott its democracy talks aimed at organizing elections in December.

Police said at least 29 activists, mostly from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Awami League, were arrested in three districts.

"Among those arrested is a former member of the parliament" who leads the Narail district wing of the BNP, police officer Bisjhwajit, who uses only one name, told AFP. There was no immediate comment from the government.

- Asian Tribune -

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