Dhaka: A Bangladesh court sent former prime minister Sheikh Hasina to jail pending a trial on extortion charges, as law enforcers stepped up security across the country following protests against her arrest.
Hasina, who served as prime minister from 1996 to 2001, was arrested early on 16 July at her home in the capital, Dhaka, and taken to a court where a magistrate denied her bail and ordered her to be held in jail ahead of the trial, defense lawyer Abdul Matin Khasru told reporters.
Hasina, 59, denied the allegations, saying they were aimed at keeping her from contesting the next elections. Government Law Adviser Mainul Hosein denied the claims.
Her arrest sparked protests by her supporters across the country.
Khasru said Hasina was accused of extorting about $4,41,000 from a company in return for allowing it to build a power station while she was in office.
Hasina is the leader of one of two political dynasties who 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. It has vowed 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 an anti-corruption drive by the military-backed interim government. Supporters of both women say the interim government has tried to force them into exile, although it denies it.
Hasina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s first prime minister, who was assassinated by army officers in 1975. Zia’s husband, General Ziaur Rahman, then became president, ruling until he was killed by soldiers in 1981.
The political platforms of Hasina and Zia are similar, and their followings are large. In 1991, Zia was elected prime minister. Hasina followed in 1996, and Zia returned to power in 2001 until last year.
On 16 July, a Dhaka court asked Zia to appear before it on 26 August to answer charges of tax evasion by Dinkal, a daily newspaper owned by her Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
The military-backed interim government came to power after 30 people were killed in clashes following the end of Zia’s five-year term in October.
National elections planned for 22 January were canceled. While the government has promised elections before the end of 2008, no dates have been announced.