Former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is one of 56 political leaders in Bangladesh now facing charges for the deaths of several people during political street campaigns last year. The move is the latest by authorities in the country, now under control of the military, against the two major rival political parties. VOA's Steve Herman reports from our bureau in New Delhi.

The leader of Bangladesh's main opposition party, Sheikh Hasina, has been charged with murder. Police on Wednesday accused the former prime minister and 55 others in connection with the deaths of at least four people last October.

Police say senior leaders of Ms. Hasina's 14-party alliance are among those facing murder charges because open rioting resulted in fatalities. Also charged are 10 leaders of the rival Jamaat-e-Islami party, including chief Matiur Rahman Nizami.

The general secretary of Hasina's Awami League, Abdul Jalil, says while charges were expected in connection with the riot, the murder complaint against Sheikh Hasina comes as a surprise.

"The name of Sheikh Hasina was not there," said Jalil. "When the charges were submitted her name has been included as one of the accused."

Hasina is on vacation in the United States, but had been expected to return to Bangladesh next week to answer authorities' questions about allegations she had extorted more than $400,000 while in power.

The Awami Leagues's Jalil says the new murder charges will not prevent her return.

"She belongs to this country and her father is the father of the nation. Why should she stay outside Bangladesh? She'll definitely come to Bangladesh and she will fight it legally," he said.

Ms. Hasina is the eldest child of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the nationalist leader who was the first president of Bangladesh.

Ms. Hasina's bitter foe, Begum Khaleda Zia, is under virtual house arrest. Ms. Zia's term as prime minister ended in October. Her eldest son and political heir apparent has been arrested on charges of extortion and abuse of power.

In all, about 160 senior politicians have been rounded up to face corruption charges since the military-backed interim government imposed a state of emergency in mid-January.