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Sunday, 5 March, 2000, 20:58 GMT
Ex-Bangladesh leader fights for son
general
General Ershad was ailed after being overthrown
By David Chazan in Dhaka

The former military leader of Bangladesh, General Hossein Mohammad Ershad, has filed a lawsuit challenging the arrest of his son for allegedly abducting a 14-year-old girl.

General Ershad says the accusation is false and aimed at discrediting his opposition Jatiya Party.

He says the girl had been having a relationship with his son, Shad, for more than a year.

According to the general, the girl frequently visited his home - where his son is accused of keeping her for more than 24 hours.

The girl's father has been quoted as saying she is mentally unstable.

The accusation against Shad is potentially damaging for General Ershad. His party is a member of an opposition alliance including the Islamic party, Jamaat, which preaches strict moral and sexual behaviour.

Jailed for corruption

General Ershad himself has admitted that he had an extra-marital relationship while in power.

His political influence has waned since he was jailed for corruption after being peacefully overthrown in 1991.

His passport was briefly impounded last year and he says his son's arrest is the latest attempt to undermine his party.

General Ershad says the arrest was unlawful because his son is under 16 and his parents should have been present.

He has asked the Bangladesh High Court to release Shad into his custody because he says the boy is too young to be held by police.

But the authorities maintain that Shad is 17 years old.

The boy has been kept in custody until Tuesday, when the court is to consider the debate over his age.

If tried in an adult court, he could be jailed for life.
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