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Bangladesh Government allows Hasina to go abroad for treatment
June 09, 2008 20:00 IST
Bangladesh's military-led government announced the release of ailing former premier Sheikh Hasina who will leave for the United States, nearly 11 months after she was arrested under its massive anti-graft drive.
"The government has decided to give her an opportunity to go abroad for treatment. She will be released through an administrative order," chief prosecution lawyer Sharfuddin Ahmed Mukul told media-persons in Dhaka.
The announcement came as four special courts trying the 60-year-old Awami League chief in separate corruption cases exempted her from personal appearance during the hearings.
Mukul said Hasina, who was the prime minister from 1996 to 2001, could be released anytime now as the court had returned her passport but the cases against her would continue.
Hasina's lawyers said she will be travelling to the United States after her release as thousands of party supporters started gathering along roads leading to the national parliament complex, where the authorities have detained her in a make-shift jail since her arrest on July 16 last year.
Hasina suffered a major ear injury during a grenade attack in 2004, on her rally, by suspected Islamic militants that left over two dozen people dead. Hasina was admitted earlier at a city facility under custody for various problems including fluctuating blood pressure, eye complaints and cardiac complications.
On April 18 last year, the interim government had barred Hasina from returning to country while she was on a tour in the the US and the United Kingdom. The British Airways flight that was to fly her home from London [Images] was told not to take her on board but after intense international pressure the government was forced to lift the ban a week later.
Speculation was rife that Hasina could be released and sent abroad 'for treatment' along with her arch rival Khaleda Zia, chief of the country's second major party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, after the government formed separate medical boards to assess the health of the two women leaders.
But Zia declined to leave the country. "I will not go abroad for treatment in any way, I will undergo treatment at home," the BNP leader, who was arrested in September under graft charges, told media-persons and questioned the motive behind the proposal to send the two leaders abroad.
Apart from the intense pressure from donor countries like the US and the European Union , the BNP and Awami League had also demanded the release of their leaders as a precondition to take part in a dialogue with the interim government ahead of planned general elections in December.
The interim government, installed after President Iajuddin imposed a state of emergency in January last year and
scrapped general elections following months of political turmoil, had unleashed a massive anti-graft drive, putting
behind bars over 150 high-profile people, mostly politicians.