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Bangladesh asks London to return ex-premier Khaleda Zia’s fugitive son

Rahman is wanted by courts at home on charges of graft and grenade attack

Gulf News

Dhaka: Bangladesh has requested London to return main opposition BNP’s senior Vice-President and ex-premier Khaleda Zia’s “fugitive” elder son Tariq Rahman as he was wanted by courts at home on charges of graft and a deadly grenade attack.

“Our High Commission in London has handed over a letter to the British authorities seeking Tariq Rahman’s return . . . the copy of the court’s arrest warrant ordering his arrest was also provided to the British authorities,” a senior foreign ministry official told Gulf News.

The official said the letter was sent to the British foreign office last week also pointing out that a Dhaka court ordered Bangladesh foreign ministry steps to execute the warrant engaging the Interpol as Rahman was living in London since 2008.

The British High Commission officials in Dhaka were unavailable for comments on Dhaka’s request because of weekend holidays.

It was unclear if Rahman sought an asylum in Britain while the British authorities earlier declined to make any public statement on the issue calling it a “personal matter of an individual”.

But diplomatic sources said the British Foreign and Commonwealth office now could come up with a statement as they received an official request from Bangladesh on Rahman’s repatriation, which also appeared to be a major issue in Bangladesh’s internal politics.

A Dhaka court on May 26 issued a warrant ordering Zia’s elder son to face trial on graft charges brought by Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) during the 2006-2008 emergency rules under the army backed interim government.

A detained Rahman was allowed to take an overseas tour for medical treatment under a Supreme Court order at the fag end of the military-backed regime but he preferred to stay back in London as the subsequent general elections installed the ruling Awami League to power with three fourths majority.

Rahman is also being tried in absentia by another court on charges of masterminding the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on a rally of the then opposition Awami League of incumbent Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina.

Hasina was visibly the prime target of the assailants but she narrowly escaped the attempt but sustained permanent hearing impairment while 24 people were killed in the attack.

Rahman apparently maintained a low profile in exile as he was charged under a series of graft and criminal cases but the warrant came a week after he was back in news joining a BNP meeting in East London recently demanding restoration of caretaker government system for election oversight.

He also urged expatriate Bangladeshis to mount pressures on the ruling Awami League on the issue as the BNP was spearheading a massive street campaign saying no election under the party government would be acceptable.

But foreign relation analysts and diplomatic sources earlier said Rahman’s repatriation issue could take longer period for disposal as it would require the involvement and clearance of the British home office and court.

“The repatriation could be uncertain if the person concerned is exposed to death penalty at home,” a diplomatic source earlier told PTI preferring anonymity.

Rahman’s younger brother also fugitive Arafat Rahman Koko is currently living in Bangkok to evade justice for siphoning off huge amount of money during the 2001-2007 BNP rule.

ACC earlier said they recovered 2041,000 Singapore dollars (Dh6,001,153) which was siphoned off Koko while a Dhaka court last year handed him down six years of imprisonment after trial in absentia for siphoning off over Taka 20 crore abroad.

BNP has consistently been alleging that the Zia’s sons were being victimised for political vengeance while the issue appeared as a crucial factor ahead of the next year’s general elections.

The World Bank recently released a publication mentioning the alleged embezzlement of several million dollars by Koko as “an example of stealing national assets”.