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Govt might send ex-PMs abroad - officials PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 08 June 2008

The army-backed interim government hurriedly completed health checks on two detained former prime ministers, suggesting they might be sent overseas for further treatment, reports agency.

Government-appointed medical boards examined Sheikh Hasina, Begum Khaleda Zia and her ailing son Arafat Rahman separately in special jails, where they have been held since being arrested last year and are now on trial on corruption charges.

Jail officials said the specialist doctors had recommended to the authorities that Hasina and Arafat be sent abroad immediately for better medical treatment, something the government has refused to allow till now.

The doctors suggested Khaleda should also be considered for treatment abroad, officials said without giving details.

"A final decision (on who will be going to where and when) is awaited from the relevant authority," Major Shamsul Haider Siddiky, deputy inspector-general of prisons, told reporters.

If allowed to leave, it is unclear if the interim authorities would block their return ahead of elections planned for December next, something their parties have feared in the past.

Hasina, who ruled Bangladesh from 1996-2001, went overseas early last year but was initially blocked from returning home after a trip to the United States for treatment and visiting family.

The interim government eventually backed down after protests at home and pressure from abroad and she returned home.

The medical boards said Khaleda might need surgery on her knees while treating Hasina's hearing problem was not possible in the country.

Doctors treating Khaleda's detained elder son and likely political heir, Tareque Rahman, said on Saturday they might also recommend treatment abroad.

Khaleda has refused to leave the country while her sons are behind bars, officials and party leaders said. She would like them released from jail unconditionally, too, before she agrees to go abroad, they said.

Hasina's Awami League welcomed the government gesture and said they had wanted her to go abroad earlier for treatment of hearing problems caused by grenade blasts at a Dhaka rally in August 2004 that killed 23 people.

"We only hope the government won't delay her foreign travel any more," said Syed Ashraful Islam, the party's acting general-secretary.

Party officials said Hasina was ready to go abroad, but they hoped she would be released from jail unconditionally.

Both former prime ministers say the corruption charges are false and politically motivated.

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