Bangladesh PM holds rare talks with opposition

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (2ndR) sits in a dialogue with opposition party in Dhaka on November 1, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 01 November 2018
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Bangladesh PM holds rare talks with opposition

DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held rare talks with the opposition Thursday, days after its imprisoned leader was given a fresh sentence that will keep her behind bars for 10 years.
Hasina’s ruling Awami League party had earlier rejected any calls for talks with her opponents and ruled out accepting its demand for the dissolution of parliament before elections next month.
In an abrupt about-face, the prime minister hosted members of the opposition coalition at her Dhaka residence late on Thursday to discuss — but did not back down in her refusal to appoint a caretaker government for the polls.
Former foreign minister Kamal Hossain brought a group of 20 opposition officials to the meeting, according to Awami League deputy chief Obaidul Quader.
Hasina rejected the delegation’s key demand for a caretaker government, Quader said.
The visitors were “not satisfied” with the talks, said opposition Bangladeshi Nationalist Party deputy chief Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
The talks came as Hasina’s chief rival, former premier Khaleda Zia, was on Tuesday handed a seven year prison term on graft charges, while another appeal court doubled her sentence for an earlier embezzlement conviction.
Zia and Hasina have been rivals since the 1980s, when both women allied to force the country’s former military dictator from power.
The duo alternated power for two decades until Zia boycotted national polls in 2014, sparking violence across the Muslim-majority democracy of 160 million.
Zia’s is the only inmate in an otherwise abandoned 19th-century jail and her health has deteriorated in custody. Her physician said she was suffering from diabetes and that arthritis had rendered her left hand useless.
Lawyers for Zia have accused the government of putting her health at risk by refusing her specialized care in prison.


Iranian TV anchor held as witness is released from US jail

Updated 6 min 51 sec ago
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Iranian TV anchor held as witness is released from US jail

  • Marzieh Hashemi was detained by federal agents last week in St. Louis and transported to Washington
  • Her detention comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a nuclear deal

WASHINGTON: A prominent American-born anchorwoman on Iranian state television who was jailed in the US as a material witness has been released from jail, activists and a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Marzieh Hashemi, 59, was released from jail in Washington on Wednesday evening after being detained for more than 10 days, according to Abed Ayoub, an attorney with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Hashemi, who works for the Press TV network’s English-language service, was detained by federal agents Jan. 13 in St. Louis, Missouri, where she had filmed a Black Lives Matter documentary after visiting relatives in the New Orleans area, her son said. She was then transported to Washington and had remained behind bars since then.
Hashemi appeared at least twice before a US District judge in Washington, and court papers said she would be released immediately after her testimony before a grand jury. Court documents did not include details on the criminal case in which she was named a witness.
Federal law allows judges to order witnesses to be detained if the government can prove that their testimony has extraordinary value for a criminal case and that they would be a flight risk and unlikely to respond to a subpoena. The statute generally requires those witnesses to be promptly released once they are deposed.
A person familiar with the matter said Hashemi had fulfilled her obligation as a material witness and was released. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Hashemi is a US citizen and was born Melanie Franklin. She lives in Tehran and comes back to the United States about once a year to see her family, usually scheduling documentary work in the US, her son said.
Asked whether his mother had been involved in any criminal activity or knew anyone who might be implicated in a crime, Hossein Hashemi said, “We don’t have any information along those lines.”
He didn’t immediately respond to a call seeking comment on Wednesday.
Marzieh Hashemi’s detention comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a nuclear deal. Iran also faces increasing criticism of its own arrests of dual citizens and other people with Western ties.
Earlier Wednesday, dozens of activists protested outside the federal courthouse in Washington, where Hashemi was scheduled to appear before the grand jury. They held signs and chanted, “Free, free, Marzieh!” and “Shame, shame, USA!“