No harassment, but probes to continue against leaders
Apr 13, 2007 - 12:43:58 PM

Dhaka, April 13 - Bangladesh's caretaker government says it will 'not harass' top political leaders, but stresses that probes against them and into their wealth and assets will continue.

It has also sought to scotch political speculation and media reports that it was working to force the two former prime ministers, Begum Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, to leave the country.

The government's seemingly double-edged commitment came in response to angry reactions of the two women leaders who have taken turns in governing the country between 1991 and 2006, and their restive political cadres.

M.A. Matin, communications advisor in the government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, assured media Thursday that the government would not 'harass' the two women leaders and sought cooperation from all concerned into the probes underway or about to begin.

Matin said it was he who had interacted with Hasina, who has been charged with murder and is in the US, suggesting that she need not cut short her stay with her family.

'We will ensure that Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia are not harassed as they are very important persons. We rather need cooperation of the political parties to lead the country towards holding a free and fair election,' Matin was quoted as saying by New Age.

He said Hasina would not be arrested, particularly in connection with the 'extortion' case, before any chargesheet was framed. The anti-graft task force will investigate the 'authenticity of the case' first, he added.

'I myself will look into the matter so that no confusion or misunderstanding is created in the name of filing cases. The task force will complete investigation within a month and also find out whether there is any conspiracy behind filing of the extortion case -,' said Matin, who is also chairman of the national coordination committee against corruption.

Media reports have said the extortion charge against Hasina, coming after more than six years, was trumped up. Matin said the government would verify the complaint before moving against her.

Although media reports have also said that Zia's movements and visitors to her home have been restricted, Matin said he was 'not aware' of any such curbs.

Kazi Tajul Islam Faruque, chairman of Westmont Bangladesh Ltd, Monday filed an extortion case under non-bailable sections of the penal code accusing Hasina of taking 30 million takas from him.

The extortion charge, New Age noted, was brought just 48 hours after the Awami League chief slammed the interim administration of Fakhruddin Ahmed as 'undemocratic' and 'unconstitutional' in an interview with the BBC Bangla service broadcast April 7.

The Anti-Corruption Commission chief Manzur Mannan has said the body would begin gathering information about the wealth and assets of top politicians, including Zia and Hasina, to determine if they were in excess of their legitimate means.

In each case, he assured, the ACC would notify the persons concerned and seek their response before starting any penal action.

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