| Rare respect
Dhaka, July 19 (Reuters): Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia said today she was deeply shocked by the arrest of her bitter rival, Sheikh Hasina, on corruption charges and called for her to be freed.
Security forces detained Hasina, also a former Prime Minister and chief of the Awami League, on Monday and a court sent her to jail to await trial over allegations of extortion.
“I am deeply shocked to see the harassment and hassles faced by a former Prime Minister, a respected citizen and daughter of a national leader,” a statement issued by Khaleda’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) quoted her as saying. It said Khaleda demanded Hasina’s immediate and unconditional release.
Hasina is daughter of Bangladesh’s independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was killed in a 1975 coup that paved the way for Khaleda’s late husband, General Ziaur Rahman, to eventually become President of the republic. The two women have reportedly not spoken to each other throughout the past 15 years, when they alternated in power.
Khaleda also faces charges of extortion and abuse of power, and analysts say she could also be detained soon.
Both former Prime Minister deny any wrongdoing and say the charges are designed to force them out of politics.
Hasina’s lawyers said they would try to meet her in jail to discuss her defence, but that she probably would not be able to get bail before the prosecution begins in a special anti-corruption court later this month or in early August.
“As the former Prime Minister has been detained under emergency laws, a petition seeking her bail won’t be accepted at the court,” senior lawyer Mahbub-e-Alam said after meeting Zillur Rahman, acting Awami president. “But we are preparing to challenge the implication of the extortion charges in the high court and seek a decision.”