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Sheikh Hasina leaves for Dhaka

May 07, 2007 09:50 IST

A fortnight after British Airways declined to issue her a boarding pass, former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina left for Dhaka via Abu Dhabi by an Etihad Airways flight, pledging to fight for restoration of democracy back home.

"I am happy to be going back home and my immediate priority is to work for restoration of democracy in my country," 60-year-old Hasina, who was Bangladesh's Prime Minister between 1996 and 2001 told media persons at the Heathrow airport shortly before checking in on Sunday night.

Hasina, who was leader of the opposition in the last Parliament, said, "My people are eagerly awaiting my arrival in Dhaka but public meetings are banned there and the authorities may arrest me. I don't know."

She is scheduled to reach Dhaka at 4 pm on Monday.

The Awami League leader, who has issued legal notice to British Airways claiming over a million pounds in damages for denying her a boarding pass despite holding a valid ticket and passport on April 22 leading to mental stress, agony and loss of reputation, thanked Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon and other world leaders for extending support to her and pressing the military-backed caretaker government in Bangladesh for restoration of democracy at the earliest.

British Airways has two weeks time to reply to the legal notice.

The interim government had charged her with murder of four protesters during a riot last October and extortion and issued an arrest warrant against her. The warrant described her as a fugitive but a court suspended the warrant after the police described the charges as flawed.

After the police told the court that they needed more time to investigate the case against Hasina, a judge ordered them 'to submit a fresh charge after the reinvestigation.'

Sheikh Hasina left Bangladesh for United States in late March, a few weeks after the interim government declared a state of emergency and postponed elections due in January.

H S Rao in London
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