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Bangladesh court jails United Nations rights expert and her politician husband for extortion




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Monday, August 27, 2007
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP)


A special court sentenced a U.N. human rights lawyer to three years in prison and imprisoned her politician husband for seven years for extortion in the Bangadeshi capital Monday, a news report said.

Sigma Huda, a Bangladeshi lawyer appointed in 2004 as an independent expert on people trafficking by the United Nations, was convicted of abetting her husband in extorting more than 20 million takas (US$294,000; 336,100) from a construction firm while he was communications minister, CSB News said.

The same court sentenced her husband, Nazmul Huda, to seven years in jail, the report said.

Court officials and the couple's lawyers were not immediately available for comment on the latest conviction in a government campaign to crack down on corruption.

Borhan Uddin, Huda's lawyer, told the court his client was innocent, and that she had been targeted for speaking out against Bangladesh's military-backed government, CSB reported. The military assumed power in January following violent clashes over electoral reforms that left more than 30 people dead.

She has been outspoken about corruption in the police service and has campaigned on behalf of women and the homeless, Uddin said.

Under international conventions, Huda enjoys diplomatic privileges that prevent her arrest or detention while she is acting in her role as a U.N. rights expert but not in other capacities.

Dozens of top politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen accused of amassing wealth through corruption or misuse of power have been arrested under the campaign to clean up the impoverished country's political, business and public service sectors.



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