Bangladesh releases opposition leader for medical treatment (Second Lead)

June 11th, 2008 - 10:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 11 (DPA) The military-backed interim government in Bangladesh Wednesday released from jail on parole former prime minister Sheikh Hasina to go abroad for a complicated medical treatment, officials in the Ministry of Justice said. As rumours of Hasina’s release spread, thousands of slogan chanting supporters of the 63-year-old politician thronged the central office of the Awami League, the political party she has been leading since 1981 following her return from exile.

Frenetic crowds also mobbed the motorcade in which the opposition leader was driven from the special prison quarters to her residence guarded by police sharpshooters and soldiers in Dhaka’s western Dhanmandi district.

“The opposition leader has been given eight weeks for treatment abroad,” said prison chief General Zakir Hussain.

The parole granted by President Iajuddin Ahmad on humanitarian grounds could be cancelled any time, Hussain said.

Hasina was indicted in special courts for alleged extortion and receiving kickbacks from businessmen during her premiership between 1996 and 2001.

In solitary confinement Hasina complained to her lawyers of suffering from mental depression and urged the authorities to arrange for treatment of her ears.

Personal doctors said Hasina’s ears were damaged during a grenade attack on her by suspected Islamic militants at a crowed rally in Dhaka nearly four years ago.

“Her ears may be damaged beyond repair if treatment which is not available at home is delayed,” said Hasina’s private secretary Hasan Mahmud.

She survived the attack which killed more than 20 people including several party leaders.

Hasina, who carries the political legacy of her charismatic father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was jailed in July last year to stand trial for at least a half a dozen corruption cases alleging extortion.

She denied the charges.

As part of the preparations for her going abroad, the courts excused Hasina from appearing in person during the trials which will go on in her absence.

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