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Islamist leader held on graft charges: police

world Updated: May 19, 2008 12:31 IST
AFP
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The leader of Bangladesh's biggest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, has been arrested as part of the military-backed government's anti-graft crackdown, police said on Monday.

Police picked up Matiur Rahman Nizami, who was industries minister in the country's most recent elected government, from a house in central Dhaka late Sunday.

"Nizami has been arrested after the anti-corruption commission charged him. This is the first corruption charge against him," local police chief Mizanur Rahman said.

Nizami is the third senior minister in the cabinet of detained ex-premier Khaleda Zia to be arrested over the awarding of a container handling contract to a local firm in 2003.

Zia's Islamist-allied coalition government led by her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) held power until October 2006.

On Sunday two influential former ministers, Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan and Shamsul Islam, surrendered to the court and were remanded in custody. Police also raided the house of another ex-minister who is out of the country.

Bangladesh has been under emergency rule since January 11, 2007, when elections were cancelled after months of violence over claims of vote-rigging.

An army-backed government took power the next day and launched a massive crackdown on corruption, pledging to clean up the country's politics before reinstating democracy through fresh elections set for December 2008.

More than 150 top politicians, including Zia and her bitter rival Sheikh Hasina Wajed, another former prime minister and leader of the opposition Awami League, have been detained.

Scores of former ministers, lawmakers and their family members have already been sentenced to between five and 20 years in jail by fast-track anti-graft courts set up by the government.

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