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.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs