December 19, 2008 / 2:05 PM / in 11 years

UPDATE 1-Bangladesh says jailed politicians can contest poll

(Adds police chief’s comment, details)

By Anis Ahmed

DHAKA, Dec 19 (Reuters) - About two dozen senior Bangladesh politicians in jail for corruption will be allowed to contest the country’s elections on Dec. 29, election officials said on Friday.

The commission ordered the reprinting of over four million ballot papers following the decision by the Supreme Court to accommodate the candidates, who include former ministers in the governments of both Begum Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina.

More than 150 senior political figures have been detained or jailed on corruption charges in the last two years by special courts operating under emergency rule.

But many have been released on bail or have had their sentences quashed in the run-up the election, as the interim government sought to appease participating parties.

Khaleda, of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and Hasina, of the Awami League, were among those detained and were in the middle of trials for graft until their release on medical bail a few months ago.

The “battling begums”, as the two women are known, rotated as prime minister of the impoverished south Asian country for over 15 years and are again the top contenders in this month’s polls.

On the campaign trail on Friday, each accused the other of misdeeds and failures during their rule.

Meanwhile the Inspector-General of Police, Noor Mohammad, said nearly 150 of more than 1,500 election candidates had asked for special police protection ahead of the vote, fearing attacks by rivals or militants.

“I have assured them of doing so,” he told reporters on Friday.

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