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Murder charge filed against Hasina

Dhaka, April 11 (AP): Police charged former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and 55 other political activists in Bangladesh today for their alleged roles in the killings of five rival activists during riots last year, news reports said.

Hasina, on a visit to the US, told the BBC that she rejected the charge, calling them “fake” and vowing to fight “legally and politically”.

Dhaka city police sub-inspector Enamul Haque filed murder charges against Hasina and 45 members of a 19-party political alliance led by her Awami League party, domestic news agency www.bdnews24.com reported.

Haque accused them of involvement in the deaths of four activists of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh during riots last year in Dhaka that left a total of five people dead, the report said.

The violence followed the appointment of an interim government charged with overseeing new elections following the end of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s five-year term.

Hasina, a bitter rival of Zia, has been implicated as an “abettor” to the killings of the Jamaat activists, another local news agency the United News of Bangladesh, or UNB, reported.

In a separate development, police sub-inspector A.K.M. Idris Hossain brought murder charges against Jamaat-e-Islami chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and nine of his colleagues for their alleged roles in the killing of an activist who belonged to the Awami League-led alliance at the same riot, local television station Bangla Vision reported.

Two Dhaka courts will separately hear the cases on April 22 to decide whether the charges could be pursued, the UNB reported. Hasina, who as Prime Minister led Bangladesh from 1996 to 2001, was in the US visiting her children when the charges were filed.

In an interview with the BBC Bengali service from the US, she said the government was living in a “fool’s paradise” if it thought the charge would prevent her from taking part in Bangladeshi politics.

“I am looking to come back home early and am already looking for a ticket,” she said.

“The government thinks it can intimidate me, but it has forgotten that members of my party successfully fought against another military government during the Bangladeshi war of independence against Pakistan in 1971,” she told the BBC.

Separately, Hasina told the BBC World service that she would return to her country despite the possibility of arrest. “I don’t care, I don’t bother,” Hasina said. “I can take any risk for my people.”

The Jamaat-e-Islami was a partner of a four-party coalition government headed by Zia, whose term expired in October. Bangladesh is currently ruled by a military-backed interim government. President Iajuddin Ahmed on January 11 imposed a state of emergency to quell violent protests calling for electoral reform that left more than 30 dead.

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