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Last Updated: Monday, 27 August 2007, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Bangladesh ex-PM loses bail plea
Sheikh Hasina outside court

Former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been denied bail by the country's Supreme Court.

It overturned a ruling by a lower court issued last month which said that she should be freed from detention.

Sheikh Hasina's legal team described the ruling as "setback" and said they did not expect her to be freed soon.

The Awami League party leader has been held since mid-July under emergency rules currently in force in the country. She denies corruption charges.

Sheikh Hasina and members of her family are accused of receiving thousands of dollars in extortion payments.

It's a big setback for us - there is now no chance that she will be freed any time soon
Sahara Khatun,
Lawyer for Sheikh Hasina

One of the cases against her relates to a payment she allegedly received for an electricity contract issued during her period in office eight years ago.

Monday's decision was the court's final ruling. It dismissed arguments advanced by her lawyers that the government was not entitled to prosecute her.

In a separate development Sigma Huda, a UN special rapporteur on people trafficking, has been jailed along with her husband, the former Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Communications Minister Nazmul Huda.

Mr Huda was sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment and his wife to three years in jail for their roles in a bribery case.

There has been no comment from the UN over Ms Huda's sentencing, but in July Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon concluded that because she was not being tried on charges related to her work as a UN independent expert, she was not eligible for diplomatic immunity.

'Politically motivated'

Lawyers for Sheikh Hasina say that Monday's Supreme Court ruling is a "big setback" which means there is no chance that she will be released soon.

Sheikh Hasina. File photo
Sheikh Hasina vigorously protests her innocence

They said that the court in a separate ruling ordered Sheikh Hasina to submit details of her financial affairs to the anti-corruption commission within seven working days.

Sheikh Hasina is currently being held at a house inside the parliament complex in central Dhaka. She is among 150 high-profile figures who have been arrested as part of the anti-graft campaign.

She argues that the charges against her are politically motivated, and have been initiated to block her from standing in future elections. The government has denied the claim.

All the corruption charges relate to her time in office from 1996 to 2001. She also faces charges in connection with the killings of four political rivals earlier this year.

Sheikh Hasina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led Bangladesh to independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Her bitter rival, Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Khaleda Zia, also faces criminal charges over tax evasion allegations.

Since January this year, Bangladesh has been governed by a military-backed emergency government, which has promised to root out corruption before elections are held by the end of 2008.

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