Slapped with murder charge, Hasina delays return from US
Apr 12, 2007 - 3:14:01 PM

Dhaka, April 12 - Former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who has been charged with the murder of six Jamaat-e-Islami - workers last year, has postponed her return from the US, says Awami League general secretary Abdul Jalil.

While Jalil did not specify when, The Daily Star newspaper quoted unnamed sources to say Hasina might return only in June or July after her daughter delivers a baby.

Her return next Saturday was called off on 'a request from a high official assuring that the caretaker government that has slapped the charge would do nothing to affect her image and honour', Jalil said.

He did not elaborate who the official was.

The official had spoken to Hasina, who is with her family members in Florida, and then to Jalil. After this, the Awami League Presidium, that had earlier urged her to return home earliest, changed its stand.

Hasina had reacted sharply when she was last week charged with extorting 30 million takas - from a businessman and told the BBC Bangla Service that she was 'ready to catch the first flight home'.

Hasina was due back from her sabbatical around April 26.

Party leaders, who had reacted with anger at the extortion charge, went into a huddle when she was accused of murder, media reports said.

The murder charge pertains to a rally Hasina had addressed on Oct 28 last year at the peak of the political crisis in the country. Finding some JEI workers amidst them, the rally participants allegedly turned violent and killed six of them.

Though the Awami League leader's name was not mentioned in the complaint filed by JEI then, it was added by police late Wednesday.

Ironically, the police that acted on the JEI complaint to book Hasina and 44 other leaders of the 14-party alliance she leads, used a counter complaint for the same incident to book JEI's top brass.

JEI's 'amir', the supreme leader, Motiur Rahman Nizami, and nine others have also been slapped with murder charge - the first time the rightwing Islamist party has been implicated in the drive against crime, corruption and militancy that the government has unleashed since it took office three months ago.

The political scene in Bangladesh is grim with Wednesday's developments pushing major political parties on the defensive. Their activities, even indoors, have been banned under the national emergency in force since Jan 11.

Hasina's rival and another former prime minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, who was to have left for Saudi Arabia earlier this week, called off her visit amidst the crisis. Her politician son Tareq Rahman has been in detention on extortion charges for the past one month.

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