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Khaleda faces court heat

Dhaka, June 13 (Reuters): Bangladesh’s former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia and 12 others have been charged for violating laws governing trading and manufacturing companies in the country, officials said today.

A court has asked all of the accused, including Khaleda’s detained elder son Tarique Rahman, to appear before it on July 16.

They were directors of the Daily Dinkal Limited, publisher of the Dainik Dinkal newspaper, a mouthpiece of Khaleda’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

The Dinkal Limited is an unlisted private limited company, court officials said.

Six of the charged people including Tarique, Khaleda’s heir apparent, and two of her former ministers have been in jail for months after being detained in an anti-corruption drive by the country’s army-backed interim government.

The Joint Stock Company, a state-managed watchdog and regulator of private and public limited firms, filed a case for dodging their legal obligations at a court on Tuesday.

“The directors violated some pertinent laws as they did not hold annual general meetings and submit audit reports of the company since they took charge,” said a Joint Stock Company official.

The interim government headed by Fakhruddin Ahmed, a former central bank governor, has been running the country since January after imposing a state of emergency following deadly political violence.

More than 170 senior leaders of the BNP and Bangladesh Awami League led by Khaleda’s rival Sheikh Hasina have been held in the crackdown on corruption.

Police today filed a new case against former Prime Minister Hasina for extorting some 50 million taka ($724,600).

Businessman Nur Ali alleged that he was forced to pay the amount to Hasina for permission to contest in a parliamentary election in 2001, police said.

Police were also investigating a case filed in April against Hasina for extorting some 30 million taka ($436,000) from another businessman.

Hasina and Khaleda have repeatedly denied various accusations of past wrongdoing, saying the charges are politically motivated by their opponents.

The interim government has pledged to hold a credible election before the end of 2008 following reform in the electoral system including a new digital voters list with individual photographs.

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