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Court hears ex-Bangla PM's bail plea

world Updated: Sep 09, 2008 15:59 IST

Former Bangladeshi prime minister Khaleda Zia moved a step closer to freedom on Tuesday when the High Court began processing her bail application as part of an apparent deal with the army-backed government.

Zia was expected to be freed within days, her lawyer said, in a move to ensure her party stands in December elections aimed at restoring democratic rule.

"We are positive bail will be granted, we are very hopeful," lawyer Nadir Uddin Amir told AFP.

Two-time premier Zia, Bangladesh's most recently elected premier, serving from 1991-1996 and 2001-2006 has been in custody since September last year as part of the emergency government's crackdown on corruption.

The authorities want her to go overseas for medical care in exchange for the participation of her Bangladesh National Party (BNP) in the elections.

However her lawyer suggested Zia might stay in Bangladesh to seek treatment for arthritis and knee problems.

"I don't think she will be going overseas," Amir said.

The government, which came to power in January 2007 after emergency rule was imposed and polls cancelled following charges of vote-rigging, freed Zia's arch-rival, ex-premier Sheikh Hasina Wajed in June.

Sheikh Hasina, who led the country from 1996-2001, went to North America where she remains for medical treatment as part of a deal with the government for her Awami League party to participate in the polls.

The release of the two women is widely seen as a bid by the government to end a stalemate with both parties.