Bangla ex-PM Khaleda cleared of 2 charges

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Dhaka, Oct 26: Bangladesh's fallen prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia has won a reprieve in her battle to clear her name after the country's powerful Anti-Corruption Commission said it had found no evidence to prove at least two allegations against her. Khaleda, in jail facing possible trial for alleged extortion and abuse of power, was investigated by the commission for alleged wrongdoing connected to compensation for fires at a gas field operated by US firm Occidental in 1997 and also for awarding a mining concession without following due procedure.

''After a preliminary inquiry, the commission has not found any evidence and witnesses to prove the allegations of irregularities,'' said Mokhlesur Rahman, the commission secretary.

''The inquiry against Khaleda in the issues will be suspended,'' he said.

Analysts said the decision would help Khaleda's image, but the commission is still investigating allegations against Khaleda and her rival Sheikh Hasina, another former premier, on other allegations.

Khaleda, and her younger son Arafat Rahman, were arrested in September after the commission accused them of illegally influencing the selection of an operator for two state-run container depots in 2003.

Khaleda's elder son and apparent political heir, Tareque Rahman, has in jail since March on corruption charges.

More than 170 key politicians have been detained in the anti-corruption drive, including dozens of former ministers.

The country's army-backed interim government, which took over in January, imposed an indefinite state of emergency, cancelled as election planned for Jan. 22 and launched a massive hunt for corrupt politicians.

It says the clean up of politics is required to ensure that parliamentary elections the government now plans for around the end of next year will be free and fair.


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