Sunday, January 13, 2008

Breaking News: Court frames charges against Sheikh Hasina

Court frames charges of extortion against Hasina, Rehana, Selim

Dhaka, Jan 13 ( – A Dhaka court Sunday framed the charges of extortion against Sheikh Hasina, her sister Sheikh Rehana and their cousin Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim for trial proceedings to go ahead.

Metropolitan sessions judge Md Azizul Haque framed the charges against them and set Jan 17 for starting testimony of the witnesses, a correspondent reported from the makeshift court on the Sangsad Bhaban premises.

The judge rejected the arguments by the defence counsels that the charges should not proceed further.

Hasina was in the dock when the judge framed the charges. Selim, a former cabinet member under Hasina's premiership, also witnessed the charge-framing. Rehana lives in London, and the prosecution showed her as a fugitive.

They are facing charges of extorting some Tk 3 crore from a businessman when Hasina was in office in 1996-2001.

Hasina's counsels said they would challenge the latest decision in the higher court.

They also requested the court to adjourn Sunday's proceedings for 21 days to make room for the appeal to the higher court but the judge refused to do so and framed the charges.

The judge read out the charges and asked Hasina if she was guilty.

Hasina said: "I am completely innocent. The case has been filed as part of a conspiracy. Allah has saved me on Aug15 and Aug21. Now the government is out to malign me before people. This trial is illegal."

"This is an 'in camera' trial. The case is illegal in line with the constitution. It is aimed at preventing me from contesting the polls."

The former prime minister told the judge: "You are not independent although the judiciary is free. You get messages from special places. You have no way to disobey them."

The former prime minister said she was facing the present condition because she did not agree to allow that a military dictator would come to power.

"I have fought for democracy throughout my life. I will call upon the people to continue to fight for that cause. There's nothing better than democracy."

On June 13 last year, businessman Azam J Chowdhury filed the case against Hasina and Selim, accusing them of giving them some Tk3 crore in extortion.

Azam said he was forced to pay the money, otherwise the accused had threatened to cancel the project.

Hasina was arrested on July 16 last year at her Sudha Sadan home in Dhanmondi. Hours after her arrest, she was sent to a special jail awaiting trial.

The Awami League said it would continue to fight legally to free the detained leader.

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