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July 16 and since then

Awami League (AL) President Sheikh Hasina yesterday returned to Sudha Sadan upon her release, where she was arrested 11 months ago in connection with an extortion case.

The former prime minister had her name as accused in 14 cases as she left the sub-jail on the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban premises. She had been detained there since her arrest on July 16 last year.

Businessman Azam J Chowdhury filed the case with Gulshan Police Station on June 13, 2007, accusing the AL chief of extorting, with others, Tk 2.96 crore from him for the installation of a 210-megawatt power plant at Siddhirganj.

Hasina faced several other cases filed against her prior to her arrest as well as after she had been detained.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on September 2, 2007 filed a case against the former prime minister and six others on charges of taking Tk 3 crore in bribe in return for some advantages to set up three barge-mounted power plants.

The same year on December 9, the anti-graft body sued Hasina and another former prime minister Khaleda Zia along with 10 others for inflicting heavy loss to the state by awarding gas deals to Canadian gas exploration and extraction company Niko through corruption and abuse of power.

The first extortion case against the former prime minister, however, was filed by Tajul Islam Faruque, chairman of Westmont Power Plant, on April 9 last year where he complained of Tk 3 crore extortion.

On June 13, 2007, Noor Ali, managing director of Unique Group of Companies, sued Hasina and her two relatives for extorting Tk 5 crore in exchange for mediation between the Power Development Board (PDB) and his firm to finalise a power plant back in 1997.

The two extortion cases are now under investigation.

Among the other cases against Hasina, the hearing on charge framing in the MiG-29 purchase corruption case and Niko graft case have started already.

Although the High Court stayed the proceedings of the extortion case of Azam Chowdhury afterwards, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on May 8 this year cleared the bar on continuing its trial.

Meantime, a case involving the killing of a Shibir worker is pending with a Dhaka court.

The trials of Meghna Ghat power plant graft case and frigate purchase graft case, filed against her during the tenure of BNP-led four-party alliance government, remain stayed by the HC orders.

Six other graft cases against her, which were also filed during the four-party alliance government's rule, are under investigation.

On April 11, 2007, when Hasina was staying in the US, a charge sheet was submitted against her and 45 others in the case filed for killing of a Shibir worker during a clash at Paltan on October 28, 2006.

A week later, the government issued a press note imposing a ban on her coming back home as she had been abroad, saying that her return might spark violence in the country.

On April 22, 2007, an arrest warrant was issued against the AL chief in the Shibir worker killing case.

The government, however, lift the restriction on Hasina in the face of criticism at home and abroad and the AL president finally returned to the country to a rapturous welcome by thousands of supporters on May 7, 2007.

Before her arrest, the government barred Hasina from going to the US to visit her expecting daughter and virtually kept her confined to her Sudha Sadan residence.

In the latest development, separate courts on Sunday issued rulings exempting Hasina from appearing in court in four cases. The trial court also ordered authorities to return the AL chief her passport seized by police.

The court orders came after a government-formed medical board examined Hasina on June 5 and recommended the next day to send her abroad for better treatment of her ear. She has been suffering from hearing problem due to ear injuries in the August 21 grenade blasts on an AL rally on Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital.

Acting on the recommendations, the government yesterday freed her for eight weeks on parole.

On February 21 this year, the AL chief was taken to the Square Hospital in the capital for the first time since her arrest for medical check-ups following several health related complications.

After a couple of hours' stay there, she was taken back to the makeshift jail.

She was admitted to the same hospital on March 11 where a panel of seven doctors unanimously recommended sending her to the US for ear treatment.

In another development that day, the US doctors, who had earlier treated Hasina for the ear injuries, requested the jail authorities to send her to their hospital in Florida without delay.

In a letter, they suggested that the software of the hearing aids installed in her ears should have immediate adjustments, a personal physician of the ailing former prime minister had said.

The AL chief was, however, discharged from the hospital on March 30 and taken back to the sub jail.

As her ear and eye problems worsened, she was again admitted to Square Hospital on April 19. Prior to the admission, she was taken there for medical tests several times.

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