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Canadian lawyer to defend Hasina

world Updated: Jan 29, 2008 12:04 IST

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A Canadian lawyer will be defending former Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her cousin Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim in a graft case.

Payam Akhavan, who is a human rights activist, a professor at McGill University in Quebec and practises in the US too, has already sought permission from jail authorities to meet Hasina.

Jail authorities told The Daily Star that Akhaven's application had been referred to the home ministry as he is a foreigner.

Hasina's US-based son Sajib Joy had engaged Akhaven and more Canadian/American lawyers could join the trial, New Age newspaper said.

Following a Supreme Court verdict last week that upturned a high court stay, the corruption case against Hasina will be heard before a speedy trial court at the makeshift jail in the parliament complex where she is being held.

Hasina and Selim have denied having received 29 million takas ($500,000 approx) from businessman Azam J. Chowdhury who last week told the media that he had named Selim, but not Hasina, in his complaint.

He said Hasina's name was added by the investigators and that he had "no reason" to name "a respected former prime minister".

The Awami League chief has said the case against her has been "fabricated". She has two other graft cases as well as a murder case pending against her.

Hasina met her Bangladeshi lawyers in jail on Monday and through them denounced the current caretaker government and demanded early elections.

Elections were called off amidst political turmoil in January last year. The government says it will hold them only by this year-end.

A petition was filed last week before the apex court, and the court has asked the government to explain why it cannot hold elections within 90 days as stipulated in the country's constitution.