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Sedition charges against former Bangladeshi PM

Begum Khaleda Zia, the head of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has been charged with sedition over comments on 1971's bloody war of independence. Supporters say the charges are politically motivated.

Bangladesh's former premier was charged with sedition Monday and has been ordered to appear in court over comments she made about death tolls in the country's 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.

East Pakistan broke away to become Bangladesh in 1971 after a war between India and Pakistan.

The case was filed by a lawyer with the Bangladesh Supreme Court, complaining that remarks Khaleda made last month about "controversies" over the official death toll amounted to a crime against the state.

At a public meeting last month, the three-time premier - who is a political rival of the current prime minister - had cast doubt on official casualty figures.

"There are controversies over how many were martyred in the Liberation War. There are also many books and documents on the controversies," Zia told the gathering.

At least three million people were killed, according to official accounts. But other non-official estimates have suggested the figure is much lower.

The chief metropolitan magistrate court of Dhaka agreed on top file charges and had ordered her to appear on March 3.

But Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, acting secretary general of Zia's political party has dismissed the case as politically motivated.

"This is nothing but a mockery and its aim is to deter Khaleda from politics," Alamgir told reporters.

Audioslideshow Pakistan Bangladesh Bürgerkrieg

Bangladesh's secular government maintains trials are needed to heal the wounds of the 1971 war of secession which it says left three million people dead. Independent researchers say the death toll was much lower.

Political strife opens old wounds

Bangladesh's government of Sheikh Hasina opened an inquiry into crimes committed during the war in 2010 that's paved the way for prosecutions by a war crimes tribunal that's led to charges of

capital crimes against prominent opposition figures.

Islamists have denounced the tribunal as a tactic aimed at weakening the Jamaat-e-Islami, a religious party and key ally of the BNP, both of which have challenged the ruling party. The wave of arrests has also

worried civil society which says it's unleashed a wave of fear

as the government settles old scores.

jar/jil (Reuters, dpa)

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