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Former Bangladesh PM Makes First Court Appearance in Graft Case


Former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has appeared in court for the first time to face charges of extortion.

Security was tight as Ms. Hasina was brought to the court in the capital, Dhaka, Monday, from a makeshift jail in the parliamentary complex where she has been held since July.

After hours of legal debate between the prosecution and defense, the judge said the next hearing in the case will take place on December 9.

Sheikh Hasina, along with her sister and a cousin, are accused of taking more than $400,000 from a businessman in return for letting his company build a power plant. The charge is just one of several the former prime minister is facing.

Ms. Hasina, leader of the Awami League party, has denied the charges, saying the army-backed emergency government is trying to force her from politics.

Bangladesh has been ruled by an army-backed interim government since January this year. The interim government has pledged to clean up the country's notoriously corrupt politics ahead of elections scheduled for late 2008. Ms. Hasina and her political rival, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, are among dozens of politicians and businessmen arrested in the crackdown.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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