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Bangladesh ex-PM corruption trial adjourned after judge accused of bias

[JURIST] A Bangladesh trial judge on Monday adjourned proceedings and admonished defense lawyers for former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed [party profile; JURIST archive] after they accused the judge of partiality in open court for refusing to allow cross examination of the main witness against Hasina. The witness is a businessman who accused Hasina and her cousin of extorting $435,000 from him while she was in office. Hasina, who was formally charged [JURIST report] earlier this month with two counts of extortion, denied the accusations [JURIST report] during questioning by officials. If convicted, she would be banned from running for office for 10 years.

The trial resumed last week after the Bangladesh Supreme Court rejected Hasina's appeal of the proceedings [JURIST report]. Hasina had argued that she could not be tried under the current state of emergency rules because the alleged crimes occurred before the state of emergency [JURIST report] was declared last January. The current emergency government in Bangladesh was installed in January 2007 and is led by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed [official website; TIME interview]. The emergency government 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. Her political rival, former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, has also been charged with corruption [JURIST report]. Hasina was prime minister between 1996 and 2001 and is the leader of the opposition Awami League [party website]. AFP has more.

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