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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 17:35 GMT
Ex-Bangladesh PM faces new charge
Sheikh Hasina in a file photo from July 2006
Sheikh Hasina says the charges are a ploy to keep her from office
The anti-corruption commission in Bangladesh has filed new charges against the detained former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

The charges relate to the awarding in 2004 of a contract to operate a coal mine in northern Bangladesh to a Chinese firm.

The anti-corruption commission says that this deal was approved by Khaleda Zia, who was PM at the time.

It says that the move by Ms Zia and her ministers resulted in losses of $23m.

The ministers include Motiur Rahman Nizami, the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh's leading religious party, as well as several prominent members of Khaleda Zia's own Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

A spokesman for the two parties said the charges are politically motivated.

Politically motivated

Khaleda Zia is already in detention, as she has been accused of accepting bribes in two other cases. She denies all charges.

Khaleda Zia
Khaleda Zia, a rival to Sheikh Hasina, denies corruption charges

Her political rival, the former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has also been detained for extortion and misuse of power since July.

A trial court rejected a bail petition filed on her behalf and fixed 3 March to re-start hearing her case.

Sheikh Hasina and two family members deny receiving payments of about $435,000 from a businessman between 1996 and 2001, when she was prime minister.

They say that the allegation is politically motivated, and that the interim government's anti-corruption drive is simply an attempt to force the most popular politicians out of politics.

Emergency rule was introduced in Bangladesh after the caretaker government took power just over a year ago.

Correspondents say that under normal circumstances, the two women would be expected to play key roles in an election that the army-backed interim government has vowed to hold before the end of 2008.

But legal experts say that if they are convicted, they would be barred from the race.



SEE ALSO
Ex-Bangladesh PM's trial halted
06 Feb 08 |  South Asia
Ex-Bangladesh PM's trial starts
30 Jan 08 |  South Asia
Trial of ex-Bangladesh PM delayed
17 Jan 08 |  South Asia
Bangladeshi court charges ex-PM
13 Jan 08 |  South Asia
Q&A: Bangladesh crisis
03 Sep 07 |  South Asia
Bangladesh ex-PM loses bail plea
27 Aug 07 |  South Asia

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