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Saturday, 19 July 2008

Koko takes a shot from inhaler as he is brought out of BSMMU hospital prison cell yesterday.Staff Correspondent

Arafat Rahman Coco was released from the prison ward of BSMMU Hospital on Thursday, shortly after the government approved eight weeks parole for him on medical grounds.

Coco left the hospital grounds in an ambulance for his Dhaka Cantonment residence. Fitted with an oxygen mask, he was carried into the BSMMU ambulance just before 6pm, accompanied by his wife and a doctor.
 
Patients of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Medical University Hospital, along with hundreds of BNP leaders and supporters lined along the roadside, waved to Coco as he left the hospital grounds after his release. It took the motorcade about 10 minutes to exit the hospital grounds due to the crowds.
 
Many tossed flowers towards Coco's motorcade, held up in traffic as it left the hospital. Traffic was also backed up on adjoining roads.
 
The home ministry had earlier announced the parole order in a circular.
 
Khaleda Zia's adviser Hannan Shah told reporters that Coco should have been released much earlier.
 
"Though belated the government by releasing Coco has initiated a process. We hope the government will complete the process by immediately releasing Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman," he said.
 
BNP joint secretary general Nazrul Islam Khan echoed the sentiment: "We hope that the government will free Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman to create a healthy political environment. We want to sit with the government in dialogue with a free Khaleda Zia amongst us."
 
Deputy inspector general of prisons Shamsul Haider Siddiqui told reporters as he left the hospital: "The government has released Coco for two months."
 
Asked whether he would go abroad for treatment or stay in the country, Siddiqui said it is a matter for the family to decide.
 
"He can go abroad or take treatment in the country. Coco has been released according to the recommendation of the medical board formed for his treatment."
 
Coco's lawyer Sanaullah Miah had earlier quoted Coco's wife Sharmila Rahman as saying: "Immediately after release [Coco] will be taken to Bangkok for treatment. Steps haves been taken to arrange the necessary funds for this, as bank accounts remain frozen."
 
"Coco will be taken abroad as soon as possible," he added.
 
On the process of releasing Tarique, the lawyer said: "We have heard the matter of his release is also under consideration."
 
In Thursday's petition for Coco's exemption from the ACC graft case hearings, his lawyers said he needs to be sent abroad for better treatment according to the recommendation of a medical board.
 
Coco was arrested on September 3, 2007, as an accused in the GATCO corruption case. He has also been exempted from court on medical grounds for hearings of the GATCO case.
 
However, another lawyer Zainal Abedin Mesbah said Coco is yet to be exempted in a third case involving extortion charges.

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