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By Meredith Buel
Washington
31 October 2008

Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is vowing to participate in her country's upcoming national elections. In an interview with the Voice of America in Washington, Ms. Hasina vowed to run despite a ruling by Bangladesh's Supreme Court denying her bail, an action that could block her from taking part in the voting. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

Sheikh Hasina (file photo)
Sheikh Hasina (file photo)
Sheikh Hasina has been in the United States for medical treatment since she was given parole from prison in Bangladesh.

In a ruling earlier this week, Bangladesh's Supreme Court denied Ms. Hasina bail, jeopardizing her hopes of participating in elections currently scheduled for December 18th.

Under Bangladesh's law, people on bail can take part in elections, but not those who are in jail or on parole.

Ms. Hasina told VOA she will return to Bangladesh in November and her Awami League Party is not planning to boycott the elections. "I am going back, though they did not grant bail. I do not know what will be my fate after going back. But I have to go back and I will contest the election. Definitely I will take part in the election. Let my people decide."

Sheikh Hasina was denied bail in a case in which she is accused of extorting $750,000 from a businessman when she was prime minister.

A lower court in Bangladesh denied bail to Ms. Hasina in September, prompting her to appeal to the country's top court.

The former prime minister says the charges against her are not true. "Well, though they have not given me bail, after going back I can seek bail. All the cases, you know, those are all false, fabricated and everybody knows that."

Ms. Hasina's political rival, Khaleda Zia, was released on bail from a Bangladeshi prison in September. The leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party was also in prison on corruption charges.

The military-backed interim government imposed emergency rule in Bangladesh in January 2007, following widespread violence between supporters of the two leaders.

Sheikh Hasina says she is eager to run in the elections and will try to improve her country's struggling economy. "This is my priority. That is the economic emancipation of our people. People are suffering because of the price hikes, the inflation rate gone through double digits. So our people are really suffering a lot."

Ms. Hasina says she has asked U.S. officials to send observers to Bangladesh to make sure the elections are free and fair.

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