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Page last updated at 04:23 GMT, Monday, 15 December 2008

Bangladesh ex-PM charge 'dropped'

Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina had denied the charges

A Bangladeshi businessman has said he wants to withdraw corruption allegations that led to the arrest of the former PM Sheikh Hasina.

Azam Chowdhury lodged a case accusing Sheikh Hasina and some of her relatives of extorting more than $400m in the course of a business deal.

The ex-PM was detained after the allegations, and is also awaiting trial on further corruption charges.

She and her relatives have denied receiving payments from Mr Chowdhury.

But Mr Chowdhury said he has written to the interior ministry saying that he would like to withdraw his case.

He has suggested that he was pressured into lodging it in the first place.

Mr Chowdhury's statement comes days after Sheikh Hasina launched her campaign in Bangladesh's upcoming general elections.

The interim government will fully lift a state of emergency on Wednesday, ahead of the elections on 29 December.

Azam Chowdhury had said that in 2000 he was asked to pay a bribe to get the government's clearance to build a new power plant.

He had said a government minister, Sheikh Selim, the cousin of the then Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, demanded this money, saying that some of it would go to Sheikh Hasina herself.

Mr Chowdhury had said he did not have any direct contact with Sheikh Hasina himself.

The former prime minister had denied the charge, saying that the government's anti-corruption drive is politically motivated.

Sheikh Selim had also denied the charges, and claimed he was tortured into making a statement implicating Sheikh Hasina.

Dozens of high-profile figures have been arrested on corruption charges by the emergency government which came to power with the army's support a year ago.



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