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Sheikh Hasina's release delayed

world Updated: Jun 10, 2008 16:13 IST

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Logistical problems are delaying the release of former Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina Wajed, detained for nearly a year on corruption charges, her secretary said on Tuesday.

The government on Monday gave permission for the Awami League party leader, who led the country from 1996 to 2001, to be released so she can travel to the United States, where medical experts will treat her hearing problems.

Officials had anticipated that her release could come as early as Monday evening, but her secretary Hasan Mahmud told AFP the travel plans had been delayed.

"Some practical arrangements have delayed her release and her travel to the United States. She will be released within a day or two. The government is fully cooperating in this regard," Mahmud said.

The sudden move by the army-backed government to release Sheikh Hasina comes as it tries to end a stalemate with Bangladesh's two main political parties, the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Both parties are refusing to hold talks to plan for an election at the end of the year because both of their leaders, Sheikh Hasina and the BNP leader Khaleda Zia, are detained.

Despite the courts clearing the way for her release, Sheikh Hasina will still face graft charges and will be tried in absentia.

The Deputy Prison Chief Shamsul Haider Siddiqui said on Tuesday they would "release her as soon as they receive the administrative order."

Newspapers have reported the government is also preparing to release Zia, but the two-time former prime minister is refusing to leave Bangladesh, saying she prefers to be treated for her acute arthritis and knee problems at home.

The BNP and the Awami League leaders have been blamed for the political paralysis and unrest that led to the imposition of a state of emergency and formation of an army-backed authority in January 2007.

The interim government had tried to force the two women into exile last year as part of an effort to clean up the country's notoriously dysfunctional political system, but they refused to leave and were put on trial instead.