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Crackdown lands 52 big names in jail

world Updated: Jan 11, 2008 13:56 IST

Bangladesh's emergency government has jailed 52 high-profile figures, including a string of former ministers, in an anti-corruption drive since taking power one year ago, a report said on Friday.

The 52, from the impoverished country's political and business elite, have been convicted of graft, while the trials of another 45 high-profile detainees are underway, the state-run BSS news agency said Friday.

Sentences have ranged from three to more than 20 years.

Quoting government sources, BSS said the caretaker authority believed the anti-graft campaign had been its "most effective step ... to bring discipline to the financial sector and democratic process."

Bangladesh, where 40 percent of the 144 million population scrape by on one dollar a day, is regularly named among the world's most corrupt countries.

The military-backed government launched the crackdown on February 4 last year when 34 leading politicians, influential businessmen and bureaucrats were detained.

The caretaker authority came to power on January 12, 2007, a day after the president cancelled polls scheduled for later that month and imposed the state of emergency.

The crisis followed months of violence over vote-rigging allegations between the two main parties -- the outgoing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Awami League.

The leaders of both parties -- former prime ministers Khaleda Zia of the BNP and Sheikh Hasina Wajed of the Awami League -- are among those detained.

The government has promised to restore democracy later this year through elections after implementing far-reaching reforms to clean up politics.

But Amnesty International this week criticised the government for failing to tackle human rights abuses and urged it to pursue reforms with more transparency, lifting the emergency as soon as possible.