Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 18:27 UK

Bugs eat Bangladesh court papers

The defence say their case has been ruined

Termites have eaten important documents in a high profile corruption case against former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, lawyers say.

They said many of the documents were now unreadable.

The insect-eaten files were produced in court so that the matter could be officially recorded by the judge.

Sheikh Hasina has faced a variety of corruption cases, including her current trial for allegedly wrongfully allocating an electricity tender.

'Damaged deliberately'

While cross-examining a prosecution witness at the special court hearing, her lawyers revealed that several pages of the tender had been destroyed.

The prosecution argued that only a tiny part of the cover page of the file was destroyed by termites.

Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina says that the charges are a ploy to keep her from office

They demanded to know whether the file had been damaged deliberately or because of negligence.

The hearing has now been adjourned until 3 June.

Sheikh Hasina faces at least 10 cases of extortion and misuse of power, while her rival Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been accused of accepting bribes.

Both women deny all charges against them.

Credible elections

Earlier this month the interim government announced that delayed general elections would take place in the third week of December. The exact day has yet to be set.

Voting was due in January last year, but postponed after political violence led to a state of emergency.

All of Bangladesh's parties, including the BNP and the Awami League, which alternately ruled the country between 1991 and 2006, have been invited to join the dialogue.

A state of emergency has been in place in the country for the last 16 months and hundreds of politicians have been arrested on corruption charges.

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