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Last Updated: Monday, 7 May 2007, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Ex-Bangladesh PM arrives in Dhaka
Sheikh Hasina's bullet proof car bear the airport
Sheikh Hasina received a heroic welcome
Bangladesh's former prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has arrived back in Dhaka after successfully overturning the ban preventing her return.

The Awami League president was met by senior officials and hundreds of cheering supporters.

She was stranded in London a week ago after the country's emergency government said she was a threat to national security.

She spent almost two months abroad as it tried to force her into exile.

'Gatherings banned'

Sheikh Hasina arrived in the country under tight security after flying in from London.

"It's my country, it's my home. I'm so excited to be able to return to my country," she told reporters at Dhaka's Zia International Airport.

Bangladeshi soldier
The military-backed government says it wants an end to corruption

"The government made a mistake by not allowing me to return home and it will repeat the same mistake if they arrest me," Sheikh Hasina told reporters in a reference to murder and extortion charges filed against her in her absence.

The military-backed government, which implemented a state of emergency in January, has banned political activity, but around 500 Awami League members defied the order.

"There will be fires in every home if Hasina is arrested," they chanted.

The government restricted the number of supporters allowed at the airport to meet her.

But several hundred reporters crowded round her after she flew in, and thousands of supporters lined the road from the airport to the city.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Dhaka says that if the country's military-backed caretaker government had intended to silence her by blocking her return, then the plan spectacularly failed.

Our correspondent says that the opposition leader was surrounded by a crowd of dancing, cheering supporters before being whisked away.

The government had earlier warned that political reform would be difficult if Sheikh Hasina and her rival, former Bangladesh Nationalist Party Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, stayed on the scene.

It warned international airlines not to carry Sheikh Hasina home from a holiday abroad and tried to persuade Khaleda Zia to leave for Saudi Arabia.

'Biggest betrayal'

But our correspondent says that international pressure and opposition at home forced the government to abandon the exile strategy.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Hasina has said she is seeking $2m in damages from British Airways for complying with the Bangladesh government's request not to issue her with a boarding card.

In an interview with the Asian Age newspaper on Sunday, Sheikh Hasina said the government had lied to her.

Khaleda Zia in a file photo from January 2007
Khaleda Zia has resisted attempts to be forced in to exile

"The biggest betrayal was that they would not let me return to the country," she said.

The new government says that it is determined to continue its nationwide crackdown on corruption, and has arrested more than 150 top politicians, civil servants and businessmen.

It has said that polls will be held no earlier than late 2008, after its anti-corruption drive and voting reforms have been completed.

Sheikh Hasina was charged with murder and extortion last month, but police have suspended a warrant for her arrest pending further investigations into the deaths of four protesters during unrest last year.

Police said she could still be arrested over an extortion case filed by the Bangladeshi head of a Malaysian company.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Chaotic scenes as Sheikh Hasina returns home



SEE ALSO
What next for Bangladesh dynasties?
26 Apr 07 |  South Asia
Opposition welcomes B'desh U-turn
26 Apr 07 |  South Asia
Q&A: Bangladesh crisis
26 Apr 07 |  South Asia
Bangladesh exile plan 'delayed'
24 Apr 07 |  South Asia
Sheikh Hasina warrant suspended
23 Apr 07 |  South Asia
Bangladesh ex-PM vows to go home
18 Apr 07 |  South Asia
Country profile: Bangladesh
26 Mar 07 |  Country profiles

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