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Bangladesh High Court Says Former PM Trial is Illegal

Bangladesh's High Court has thrown out a corruption case brought against former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by the interim government. The ruling puts a question mark over hundreds of other ongoing trials involving high profile politicians. But as Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, the government plans to appeal the verdict in the Bangladesh Supreme Court.

The High Court in Dhaka has ruled former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's trial by a fast-track court is illegal because the corruption charges against her date back to before emergency rule in the country.

Therefore, the court has ruled the case cannot be tried under emergency laws.

Sheikh Hasina faces accusations of extorting about $450,000 from a businessman when she was in office from 1996 to 2001.

Her lawyers call the High Court verdict a victory. Analysts say the ruling is significant because it could benefit hundreds of politicians being tried under emergency laws on charges of corruption.

But the reprieve won by Sheikh Hasina may be short lived. The government has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court seeking a stay or reversal of the High Court decision.

Ataur Rahman, professor of political science at Dhaka University, says the Supreme Court has overturned several High Court rulings in recent months.

"For the last few months, the High Court has been giving verdict which was against the government, and somehow the Supreme Court reverses it," Rahman said. "We have to wait for the Supreme Court decision. In this case also, people also are thinking that the government might not be in a problem."

Sheikh Hasina rejects the corruption charges against her, saying they are politically motivated.

The interim government launched a crackdown on corruption soon after taking charge in January last year. It banned political activity and arrested more than 170 key politicians, including two former prime ministers on charges of corruption. Most of them are being prosecuted under emergency laws that prohibit bail and provide for trial by special courts.

Analysts say political corruption was rife in Bangladesh. The interim government says it wants to root out the problem before holding elections later this year.