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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 January 2008, 12:25 GMT
Bangladeshi court charges ex-PM
Sheikh Hasina in a file photo from July 2006
Sheikh Hasina backers say charges are a ploy to keep her from office
A Bangladeshi court has formally charged former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with extortion.

Her trial is scheduled for 17 January, and a verdict will be reached within 60 days, court officials in the capital, Dhaka, have said.

If found guilty, Sheikh Hasina will be eligible to appeal to a higher court.

Sheikh Hasina and members of her family deny receiving payments of about $440,000 (220,000) from a businessman while in power from 1996 to 2001.

The former PM faces a second charge of extortion which is due to be heard in court soon.

Also charged were Sheik Hasina's cousin and former minister, Sheikh Selim, and Sheikh Hasina's only sister, Sheikh Rehana, who lives abroad and will be tried in absentia.

Dirty politics

Sheikh Hasina is one of dozens of leading politicians and businessmen arrested since an army-backed caretaker government took over in January 2007.

It has promised to clean up Bangladesh's dirty politics so that free elections can be held before the end of 2008.

She has been in custody since July - held in a special prison on the parliament's grounds in Dhaka where her fellow prisoner is another former Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia.

Khaleda Zia also denies taking bribes while in office.

Supporters of the two politicians, who are bitter rivals, accuse the interim government of using its anti-corruption drive to try prevent the country's most popular leaders from standing for office again.

SEE ALSO
Q&A: Bangladesh crisis
03 Sep 07 |  South Asia
Bangladesh ex-PM loses bail plea
27 Aug 07 |  South Asia
Bangladesh ex-PM formally charged
24 Jul 07 |  South Asia
What the arrest of former PM means
16 Jul 07 |  South Asia
Police arrest Bangladeshi ex-PM
16 Jul 07 |  South Asia
Bangladesh at a crossroads
05 Apr 07 |  South Asia
Country profile: Bangladesh
05 Jun 07 |  Country profiles

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