B'desh High Court declares Hasina trial illegal

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{image-hasina shiekh_06022008.jpg www.oneindia.com}Dhaka, Feb 6: Bangladesh High Court (HC) today declared illegal the trial of an extortion case under the emergency power rules (EPR) against former prime minister Sheikh Hasina. In a crucial judgement, the two-judge bench also quashed the extortion case of Tk 3 crore filed by a local energy company's chief executive Azam J Chowdhury.

The government now plans to move to the Supreme Court (SC) to seek a stay on the HC judgement. If it upholds the HC judgement, Sheikh Hasina might be acquitted of other extortion cases against her. Sheikh Hasina, who ruled the country for five years from 1996, was arrested by the current military-backed caretaker government on July 16 last year in connection with the extortion case.

Another former prime minister Khaleda Zia, who governed the nation until 2006, was also arrested in September last year for alleged abuse of power, favouring a private company to get the work order to handle containers in Dhaka and Chittagong in exchange of kickback.

Today, the HC division bench, comprising Justice Shah Abu Nayeem Mominur Rahman and Justice Shahidul Islam, gave the verdict declaring the trial of the extortion case against Sheikh Hasina under the EPR as illegal.

Earlier, the bench heard opinions from a six-member panel of amicus curiae on the critical matter. The lawyers' panel expressed identical views that trial of an offence which had been committed before the promulgation of the Emergency Power Ordinance 2007 cannot be held under the ambit of the EPR.

The government has sanctioned the trial in the Tk 3-crore extortion case, filed by businessman Azam J Chowdhury, under the EPR that bars bail to an accused until the case is resolved within the stipulated timeline.

However, the government side argued that the extortion case was brought under the EPR for trial ''considering public interest''. Witnesses said lawyers and journalists thronged the HC to know the judgement on such a crucial case. General lawyers of the Supreme Court termed the verdict as epoch-making and said it has redeemed the image of the higher court.

UNI

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