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Criminal procedure code to be amended to protect Hasina

The former Bangladesh PM, presently in US, faces murder charges back home.

world Updated: Apr 13, 2007 12:23 IST

The caretaker Bangladesh government plans to amend the criminal procedure code so that former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is facing murder and extortion charges, is not arrested on her return home from the United States.

"We have decided to amend the Code of Criminal Procedures 1898 to restrict police authority to arrest any accused on first information report (FIR)," law adviser of the interim government Moinul Hossein told reporters on Thursday.

The existing Code allows police to arrest any accused of cognisable offences on the basis of an initial complaint.

Communication adviser Abdul Matin said he had talked to the Awami League leader over telephone to assure her that the government did not intend to harass her in anyway.

"We will ensure that former premiers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia (of Bangladesh Nationalist Party or BNP) are not harassed as they are very important persons for the country. We rather need their cooperation in staging a free and fair election," he said.

Matin, who also heads the National Task Force on severe crimes and corruptions, denied media reports that the government was planning to force Hasina and Khaleda into exile saying they had not taken any such decision.

Police on Tuesday chargesheeted Hasina on a case filed by fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami accusing Hasina along with 45 others of killing six of their activists during a clash on November 28, 2006, the day when the BNP government relinquished power in favour of a caretaker government.

A Bangladeshi head of a Malaysian-owned firm has also accused Hasina of extorting 30 million taka.

"I myself will look into the matter so that no confusion or misunderstanding is created in the name of filing cases. The task force will complete investigation within a month and also find out whether there is any conspiracy behind filing of particularly the extortion case against her," Matin said.

On the murder charge, Hosein said top leaders were often accused of ordering murders or other criminal offences to harass them by taking the advantage of the existing criminal procedure code. "This is not a good thing."

He said after receiving the Law Commission recommendation, the Code of Criminal Procedures will be amended by promulgating an ordinance on approval of the advisers council.

In a related development, the independent Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday said they were set to start primary inquiries into the wealth of top politicians including Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia as part of its massive anti-graft campaign.

The campaign has witnessed the grilling of some 60 high-profile politicians and influential businessmen.

"The Commission is going to start gathering information about former prime minister Sheikh Hasina to determine whether she owns wealth disproportionate to her legitimate sources of income....

We will follow similar procedure regarding all top politicians including Khaleda Zia," ACC commissioner Manzur Mannan told reporters on Thursday.