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Former law minister held in graft hunt

world Updated: Apr 13, 2007 12:06 IST

Reuters
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Security forces in Bangladesh detained former law and parliamentary affairs minister Moudud Ahmed on Friday in a widening hunt for politicians suspected of corruption, police said.

"He has been detained from his Dhaka home and taken for interrogation," a police officer said, without giving details.

Moudud was a close associate of the most recent prime minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, who has been has been placed in virtual confinement at her Dhaka residence for several days.

About 160 senior politicians have been detained in a crackdown on graft launched by the military-backed interim government after it took charge on Jan. 11 and imposed a state of emergency to halt widespread factional violence.

The crackdown has netted figures from both Khaleda's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) -- including her elder son and apparent political heir, Tareque Rahman -- and the Awami League led by her arch-rival, Sheikh Hasina.

Hasina, currently on a private visit to the United States, faces charges of extortion and murder back home.

She had been planning to cut short the visit and return next week to be personally available for investigation, but party officials said she would now be staying in the United States indefinitely.

Hasina has rejected the charges against her as false, motivated and farcical.

Her Awami League has meanwhile welcomed a tentative timetable unveiled by the caretaker authority on Thursday for holding parliamentary elections -- postponed from Jan. 22, 2007 -- before the end of 2008.

"The caretaker chief has now given a timeline for the election and we welcome this," said Abdul Jalil, general secretary of the Awami League.

But the BNP did not react immediately. "We will give our formal reaction soon," BNP senior leader Nazrul Islam Khan told reporters.

"I hope the holding of elections will be possible before the end of the year 2008 and that it will be fully free and honest," the head of the interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, had said in a Thursday evening broadcast to the nation.

He also said steps had been taken "so that criminals, terrorists and black money holders cannot participate in the elections and corrupt democracy".

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