Bangladesh court resumes extortion trial of ex-PM

DHAKA Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:01pm IST

Former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina is seen in London in this April 21, 2007 file photo. A Bangladesh court heard charges of extortion against Hasina and a cabinet colleague as her trial resumed on Wednesday. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/Files

Former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina is seen in London in this April 21, 2007 file photo. A Bangladesh court heard charges of extortion against Hasina and a cabinet colleague as her trial resumed on Wednesday.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor/Files

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DHAKA (Reuters) - A Bangladesh court heard charges of extortion against former prime minister Sheikh Hasina and a cabinet colleague as her trial resumed on Wednesday.

Hasina and former minister Sheikh Selim, who is also related to her, have been accused of taking 30 million taka ($440,000) from a businessman when Hasina was in power between 1996 and 2001.

Hasina, who has been under detention since July, was in court for the trial after it resumed following the rejection of her appeal by the Supreme Court.

Both Hasina and Selim have denied the charge.

"The court has fixed Feb 4 and 5 for cross-examination of the complainant. After that Hasina and Selim will give their statement," said a court official.

The court sat inside Dhaka's sprawling parliament compound where Hasina has been held since her arrest in July last year.

Court officials said a verdict would be handed down within 60 days.

A conviction would bar Hasina from running in elections expected later this year.

Separately, the Bangladesh High Court on Wednesday ruled that the detention of Tareque Rahman, son of another detained former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia, was illegal.

The court also struck down the detention of retired brigadier Hannan Shah, a staunch Khaleda loyalist and leader of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party, lawyers said.

Both were being held on charges of amassing illegal wealth and violating emergency rules. Khaleda, who ended her five-year term in October 2006, is facing charges of graft.

Tareque and Hannan, however, were unlikely to be freed immediately as it would take some time for the High Court order to reach prison authorities, officials said.

Bangladesh's army-backed interim government has detained more than 170 politicians in a drive to clean up governance before the elections.

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