Bangladesh starts probe into graft charges against Muslim cleric
Anti-corruption authorities in Bangladesh Tuesday began investigations into graft charges against the country's most prominent Muslim cleric and leader Matiur Rahman Nizami arrested in a pre-dawn swoop on his private residence by armed police in the capital Dhaka, officials said.
Nizami, who heads Bangladesh's largest Islamic party the Jamaat-i- Islami, was facing charges of accepting bribes for handing down contracts on government purchases to private companies, reported dpa.
Nizami pleaded before metropolitan judge Waliul Islam that he had no role to play in awarding multi-million dollar contracts to businessmen violating the rules when he was minister for industry in the Nationalist-Islamist coalition government between 2001 and 2006.
"I was a member of the government purchase committee in name only because I took no decisions," said the ageing cleric whose Jamaat-i- Islami had formed an electoral alliance with former prime minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) five years ago.
The Jamaat-i-Islami has a long-term target in making an Islamic state out of Bangladesh which is dominated by Muslims.
Nizami's plea for bail was however rejected by the lower court which had ordered that the accused cleric would be held in jail during police interrogation.
Court sources said Nizami and 11 other co-accused were detained by police for standing trial for the so called GATCO scam case which was likely to kick off later this month.
Zia, the last outgoing premier, and at least four other cabinet ministers were among the listed accused in the alleged fraud.
Continuing political turmoil led to the appointment of a military backed interim government in January 2007 for holding credible parliamentary polls to restore democracy and stability to one of the poorest countries in the world.