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Bangladesh indicts ex-PM Zia in corruption cases

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A former Bangladeshi prime minister and other leading opposition figures were indicted in two related corruption cases Wednesday that could further complicate the country's tense political situation.

Judge Basudeb Roy accepted the charges against Khaleda Zia, who was present in the court in the capital, Dhaka.

The charges allege an illegal fund was used to buy land for a charity named after her late husband, former President Ziaur Rahman.

Defense lawyer Khandker Mahbub Uddin said it was not true that Zia had illegally collected more than $1 million in donations for the charity.

Also indicted Wednesday was Zia's elder son Tarique Rahman, the heir apparent to take over her Bangladesh Nationalist Party in a deeply rooted political dynasty. Rahman, who faces charges in several other cases, lives in London.

Nine people in total were indicted in the two cases, the others including Zia's staff and businessmen.

Zia says the charges are politically motivated, which authorities deny.

Zia's political party and her allies boycotted the troubled Jan. 5 elections in which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned to power with an overwhelming majority.

Zia has vowed to restart protests aiming to oust Hasina, who says she would stand tough against any such moves in the South Asian nation, which is a parliamentary democracy.

Zia heads the charity, which she established during her latest premiership, in 2001-2006.

Wednesday's indictment came amid chaos as the judge left the court twice after defense lawyers made angry protests while prosecution lawyers also shouted, witnesses said.

Zia filed two petitions to adjourn the case proceedings but the judge rejected them on Wednesday.

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