A Bangladesh High Court has dismissed the last of 15 corruption cases against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [BBC profile], her lawyer said Monday. The court held that Hasina had not committed a criminal offense [AFP report] when she used government funds to to appoint US lobbyists to represent the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority [official website] during her 1996-2001 administration. All the cases were brought against Hasina between 2001 and 2008 when she was out of power. Since being sworn into office after her reelection [JURIST report] in December 2008 each charge has either been redacted by the accuser or quashed by the court. Supporters of Hasina claim that the charges filed against her were politically motivated by ex-PM Begum Khaleda Zia [Virtual Bangladesh profile; JURIST news archive], the leader of the military-backed regime displaced by Hasina. In April 2009 Bangladeshi judges explicitly dismissed two cases against Hasina on grounds that they were filed to harass her [JURIST report]. Zia is currently facing her own set of corruption charges. She was taken into custody [JURIST report] in September 2007 for embezzling over 21 million taka (US $305,000) in the Zia Orphanage Trust which is said to be nonexistent.
Hasina faced several legal hurdles before regaining her position as prime minister. She was arrested [JURIST report] in July 2007 on suspicion of extorting more than $1 million from two businesspersons while she was prime minister from 1996-2001. She denied [JURIST report] the accusations. After an investigation by Bangladesh's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) [governing statute, PDF], she was formally charged with extortion [JURIST report] in January 2008. Five months later, she was indicted [JURIST report] after the ACC accused her of receiving about $440,000 in illegal kickbacks from a power-plant deal during her prior tenure as prime minister. In September 2008, Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International [official website] rated Bangladesh [news release, PDF] the tenth most politically and administratively corrupt country out of 180 countries studied in 2008.