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Sunday, November 22, 1998 Published at 14:21 GMT

World: South Asia

Bangladeshi writer appeals for protection

Taslima Nasreen: Back in Bangladesh after four years of exile

The controversial feminist writer, Taslima Nasreen, has come out of hiding and issued a fresh appeal to the government to protect her from Muslim fundamentalists who have threatened to kill her.

She made the appeal at a court appearance in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, where she was granted bail on blasphemy charges.

Dr Kamal Hussein, Taslima Nasreen's lawyer: "She certainly welcomes the decision"
The charges of insulting Islam are still pending, but the high court ruled that Ms Nasreen would not have to appear in person during the trial because her life could be in danger.

Ms Nasreen returned to Bangladesh in September after four years in self-imposed exile in Sweden, but has kept a low profile.

She said on Sunday that although she is no longer a fugitive from the law, she still will not be able to lead a normal life.

She said she would remain in hiding as long as Islamic groups maintain the Fatwa, the religious order calling for her death.

Muslim outcry

Taslima Nasreen - a poet, novelist and essayist - fled Bangladesh in 1994 amid death threats and street protests after she was charged with blasphemy.

She was quoted by a newspaper as calling for the Koran, the Muslim holy book, to be re-written to give women more rights.

She later denied having said this, but to many she is a feminist icon and one of the few writers in Bangladesh who have spoken out in defence of women.

She has also outraged Islamic groups by writing about religious intolerance.

Her novel, Shame, which dealt with violence against the Hindu minority in Bangladesh, has been banned in the country.

But the BBC correspondent in Dhaka, David Chazan, says the current government, seen as more liberal than the previous one in power when charges were first brought against her the writer in 1994, has shown little interest in pursuing the case against her.

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