News

    Bangladesh Set to Free Former Prime Minister

    Former prime minister of Bangladesh Sheik Hasina is awaiting release from jail so she can seek medical treatment outside the country. The Awami League matriarch had been facing trial on corruption charges, as part of the caretaker government's sweeping crackdown on graft. From our South Asia Bureau in New Delhi, VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports Hasina is expected to released on parole at any time.

    Passports belonging to former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have been returned to her lawyer, clearing the way for her release on parole for medical treatment overseas. The move follows rulings by judges in Dhaka on Monday that corruption trials can continue without Hasina's presence.

    Hasina, along with her Bangladesh Nationalist Party rival, Khaleda Zia, also a former prime minister, were caught in the dragnet of the army-backed government. Hasina was arrested nearly one year ago and is facing a variety of charges, including murder, extortion and corruption.

    The interim government plans to hold nationwide elections for parliament this December. But the Awami League and BNP said they would boycott the elections unless their respective leaders were freed.

    Hasina's release is viewed as a way to break the political gridlock, by giving the caretaker ministers and the major political forces a face-saving way out.

    The military-supported government would be able to sideline the two former leaders it blames for the political chaos, but still carry out polling that would be recognized as legitimate. And, the two largest parties would be able to contest the elections without the polarizing presence of their matriarchs.

    Dhaka University political science Professor Ataur Rahman says it is to Sheikh Hasina's advantage to go abroad.

    "She has become more moderate," said Rahman. "Her party is still stronger than the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, she felt, she perceived that. So, she thought it would be more expedient to go and take this option, rather than to languish in the jail for many years."

    A similar deal has also been offered to BNP chief Zia. But she has told judges she prefers to have her medical ailments treated locally and that the government's plan to also send her abroad is a political trap.

    Professor Rahman says that statement is in character for the two-time prime minister.

    "That's part of her ego and also a kind of strength, you can say - political muscle she had over the last 20-plus years," said Rahman.

    Zia is said to suffer from arthritis and problems with her knees. Her rival, Hasina, has a number of medical issues, including fluctuating blood pressure, eye trouble and impaired hearing - the latter caused by a grenade explosion four years ago in which 23 of her party members were killed.

    A previous government effort to force into exile the two women, known as the "battling Begums" failed.

    Bangladesh has been under a state of emergency for a year-and-a-half. A group of interim ministers, supported by the army, are running the country. They say the massive crackdown on corruption, which has netted much of country's political establishment, was essential before the country could be returned to a democratic form of government.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora