Court blocks Zia's departure, Hasina set for return
Apr 22, 2007 - 8:57:05 PM

Dhaka, April 22 - The Bangladesh government's plans to exile former prime minister Khaleda Zia received a serious setback when the Dhaka High Court asked the government to explain within five days if she was interned at home.

The development took place even as authorities braced to meet the likelihood of another former prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, defying a ban on her entry and landing at the Dhaka airport from London Monday.

Responding to a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of Zia, a division bench of the court issued a rule upon the government to explain within five days why Zia should not be brought before the court 'to satisfy that she is not interned in her Dhaka cantonment residence', Star Online reported.

The bench comprising Justices M.A. Wahhab Mian and Emdadul Haque gave the ruling as the government side 'apparently could not satisfy' the court that Zia was not house-confined.

'The rule is returnable within five days,' says the court order, which came hot on the heels of reported readiness of the embroiled ex-prime minister to go into exile amid a political purge in the country, United News of Bangladesh - news agency said.

The court directive did not specifically block Zia's possible departure to Jeddah under a widely reported 'deal', but could postpone it.

Media reports Sunday morning said Zia could leave 'any moment', having met her elder son Tareq Rahman, who is jailed on extortion charge.

The meeting took place at an undisclosed location and was confirmed by both the government and family sources.

Zia was reportedly ready to leave with about a dozen immediate relations, among them her younger son Arafat Rahman 'Coco', his wife and two daughters.

There were conflicting reports whether Zobaida, wife of Tareq, would also leave with her children. She was reportedly keen to stay on to be able to meet her jailed husband.

On a day of developments taking place in the courts rather than the political arena, the government earlier pressed the murder charge against Hasina and 44 others, securing an arrest warrant against her and two other Awami League workers.

Metropolitan Magistrate Mir Ali Reza issued the warrants after accepting a charge sheet against the Awami League chief and 45 others, Star Online said.

It was not clear whether this warrant was part of the contingency in case Hasina is allowed into the country Monday.

In an apparent show of impartiality, the government also pressed charges against top brass of the Jamat-e-Islami -, including its chief and former industry minister Motiur Rahman Nizami.

The Awami League - leaders have been charged with the murder of six JeI political workers at a rally Hasina addressed Oct 28 last year.

JeI leaders have been charged for violence at the same rally on a complaint by the Workers' Party, a constituent of the Awami League-led alliance.

Reports from London said Hasina has insisted that she would try to board the British Airways aircraft that leaves for Dhaka Sunday night. She would not seek political asylum, either in the US or the UK, if not allowed to reach Dhaka, she told BBC Bangla Service Saturday.

'Why would I seek political asylum here?' Hasina told the interviewer when asked if she would seek asylum in the US or Britain in the 'changed circumstances'.

The interviewer's reference was to the ban on her return by Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed's government that said her return could jeopardise the economy and cause political instability.

'Tomorrow I will go to the airport and I expect sense would dawn upon the caretaker government and they would let me return to Bangladesh,' Hasina was quoted in The Daily Star as saying.

Asked why she was taking the risk of being arrested by returning to Bangladesh, she said: 'I am taking the risk for the people. I want to be back with my people on my own soil.

'Sacrificing everything, I am struggling to establish the rights of the people. So whatever be my fate, I will return to Bangladesh,' she said.

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