Mig-29 case hearing against Hasina adjourned till July 3

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Dhaka, Jun 26 (UNI) A Bangladesh court adjourned till July 3 framing of charges in the Mig-29 scam case against former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as defense counsel today alleged that the incumbent caretaker government has put the armed forces in the dock by trying to entrap an elected Prime Minister in the case.

''This is for the first time in the history of Bangladesh that the entire armed forces have been dragged to court in an alleged graft case and this is a very dangerous move for the nation and democracy as well,'' Ms Hasina's counsel Barrister Shafique Ahmed told the court.

Encountering the prosecution proposal for framing charges against Ms Hasina and six others, including three former top brass of the Air Force, he said, ''Tit for tat policy does not bode well for the nation.'' Barrister Shafique said the prosecution allegation of loss of 700 crore takkas to the state coffer through the purchase of eight Russian-made Mig-29 warplanes does not stand true as the purchase deal was done in compliance with the prescribed rules of the government.

According to the case filed with Tejgaon Police Station, the purchase of the Mig-29 aircraft caused a loss of 700 crore takkas to the state coffer. On June 2, the Anti-Corruption Commission prosecution proposed framing of charges against Ms Hasina and six other co-accused.

Narrating the urgency of buying the warplanes for Bangladeshi Air Force, the counsel said the process was started in 1992 during the Bangladesh Nationalist Party rule of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia following a devastating cyclone in 1991 that caused heavy damage to several aircraft of the Air Force in Chittagong.

Barrister Shafique told the court that the bidding price for the eight Mig-29 was 289 million dollars. It was Ms Hasina's government that brought down the price to 123 million dollars through state to state negotiations, saving 166 million dollars. ''What offence Ms Hasina and others committed by purchasing the Mig-29 for safeguarding the country's sovereignty and independence?'' he asked.

He mentioned a High Court ruling on a writ petition challenging the validity of the Military Technical Cooperation Agreement with Russia before the purchase of Mig-29 aircraft. In its ruling, the High Court had stated that the agreement was signed in accordance with law.

The Dhaka Divisional Special Judge's court asked Barrister Shafique to provide the copy of the High Court judgment for perusal.

As the counsel sought time for that, the court was adjourned till July 3. Advocate Sahara Khatun represented Ms Hasina as the Awami League president was dispensed with personal attendance during trial proceedings.

UNI XC SKB HS1500

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