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Bangladesh top court rules trial of ex-PM Hasina can continue

[JURIST] The Bangladesh Supreme Court [official website] ruled on Thursday that the extortion trial of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [party profile; JURIST news archive] could continue, rejecting arguments by Hasina's lawyers that she could not be tried under the current state of emergency rules because the alleged crimes occurred before the national state of emergency [JURIST report] was declared last January. Hasina was formally charged [JURIST report] in Dhaka earlier this month with two counts of extortion for taking nearly $1.16 million from two businessmen while in office between 1996 and 2001. In October, Hasina denied the accusations [JURIST report] during questioning by officials. A verdict is expected to be handed down within 60 days. If convicted, Hasina would be banned from running for office for 10 years. Reuters has more.

The current interim government in Bangladesh, led by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed [official website; TIME interview], has arrested over 170 high-profile citizens since the military-backed government declared a state of emergency due to concerns that fraud would mar scheduled national elections. Both Hasina's sister, Shaikh Rehana, and her cousin, Shaikh Selim, a former minister in her cabinet, have been charged with extortion as well. Hasina's rival, former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia [profile], was charged with corruption [JURIST report] in September 2007.

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