Bangladeshi Ex-Premier Faces Extortion Charges

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bangladeshi Ex-Premier Faces Extortion Charges

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Police arrested former prime minister Sheikh Hasina on extortion charges Monday, and she was ordered jailed pending trial, her attorney said.

Her arrest sparked protests by supporters, who were driven away by baton-wielding police.

Hasina, who served as prime minister from 1996 to 2001, leads one of two political dynasties that have dominated Bangladesh since 1991. The other is headed by her bitter rival, former prime minister Khaleda Zia, who also faces corruption charges.

Bangladesh, under a state of emergency since mid-January, is being ruled by a military-backed interim government that has pledged to fight corruption and clean up the nation's factional -- and often violent -- politics before holding the next election.

More than 170 people, most of them associates of Hasina and Zia, have been arrested under a government anti-corruption drive.

Defense lawyer Abdul Matin Khasru said Hasina was accused of extorting about $441,000 from a company in return for allowing it to build a power station. Hasina denied the allegations.

AFRICA

· MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Attackers targeting Somali police and troops killed at least four people in Mogadishu, witnesses said, a day after mortar fire punctuated the opening of a much-delayed peace meeting. Officials adjourned the landmark national reconciliation meeting until Thursday to wait for more delegates to arrive.

· HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic archbishop, Pius Ncube, was named in an adultery case in what his lawyer called an "orchestrated attempt" to embarrass the outspoken government critic.

His attorney, Nick Matonzi, said Ncube would deny the allegations in civil court. Ncube has repeatedly accused President Robert Mugabe of human rights violations and called for him to step down.

ASIA

· KABUL -- Afghanistan's government fired a provincial governor days after he said Afghans are distancing themselves from President Hamid Karzai and that a "vacuum of authority" is allowing the Taliban, al-Qaeda and others to gain power.

Abdul Sattar Murad, the governor of Kapisa province, was fired because "he sowed discord" and provided U.S.-led coalition troops with wrong information about the people of the province, said a statement from the Interior Ministry, which appoints the country's 34 governors.

THE AMERICAS

· BUENOS AIRES -- President Nestor Kirchner's economy minister, Felisa Miceli, resigned after a prosecutor ordered her to testify about $64,000 in cash found in a bag in her office bathroom, the government said.

-- From News Services


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