Hasina, Khalida not eligible to appear before Truth Commission

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Dhaka, Mar 22 (UNI) Chief Advisor of Bangladesh caretaker government Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed has said detained former prime ministers Khalida Zia and Sheikh Hasina would not be eligible to appear before the proposed Truth Commission for pardon, as they are already arraigned on corruption charges and facing trial in courts.

Dr Ahmed, however, said his caretaker government would accept whatever verdict is pronounced against them by the judiciary which, he said, is now independent.

The Chief Advisor made the remarks during an interview with Al Jazeera television in London last week, which was aired late last night.

When asked if the proposed Truth Commission will be constituted in South African model, he said the government has looked at similar models set up in different countries.

Whether those involved in corruption would be pardoned by the Truth Commission? The Chief Advisor said, ''the idea is that they will be forgiven if they admit to having indulged in some kind of irregular corrupt practices of certain amount of money.'' But, as part of that process, there may be some kind of restrictions on their participation in political activities for a limited time,'' he added.

When asked if the two 'Begums' (Khaleda and Hasina) would also be pardoned if they go through the Truth Commission, Dr Ahmed said if somebody is already arraigned and charge-sheeted and the judicial process has begun, they should go through the judicial process.

''It is not only the two ex-premiers. All those who have crossed that sort of threshold will not be eligible for appearing before the Truth Commission. That's the thinking now, but it is not yet finalised,'' he said.

On lifting the emergency, Dr Ahmed said, the same was declared to improve the law-and-order situation and bring the country back to normalcy and added ''the law and order has improved a lot, and even though there is emergency, it is not being enforced in that sense in many fields.'' Citing an example, the head of the caretaker government said, the press was free ever since his government came to power.

''We told the press that they can criticise the government and they have been doing that and we benefit from those criticisms.'' Regarding the general election, he said it will be held at the latest by December 2008 as promised.

On whether Khaleda and Hasina would be able to participate in active politics, Dr Ahmed said it would depend on several factors as they have been arrested and facing trial in courts.

''Judicial process will go on,'' he said.

To a question if the level of corruption has gone down due to the ongoing anti-graft drive, Dr Ahmed said corruption has started going down significantly, but it is very difficult to estimate what is its current level.

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