(AFP) – Jul 30, 2008
DHAKA (AFP) — Bangladesh's government on Wednesday set up a truth commission that would allow corrupt businessmen and politicians to avoid going to jail if they confess and refund money obtained illegally.
The country's president Iajuddin Ahmed appointed the three-member Truth and Accountability Commission, naming a former high court justice as its head, presidential secretary Sirajul Islam told AFP.
"The commission starts its work today and it will be in operation for five months," Islam said.
The other two members of the commission -- set up by the emergency cabinet led by Fakhruddin Ahmed -- are a retired army general and an ex-chief government auditor.
The military-backed government, which launched a nationwide anti-graft campaign after taking power in January 2007, hopes the commission will help clear a massive backlog of corruption cases.
Officials have said it would take years or even decades to try the hundreds of people arrested since February last year.
More than 150 prominent figures have been detained in the crackdown, including ex-premiers Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina Wajed.
Sheikh Hasina has been released from detention but faces trial in absentia.
The government has already sentenced dozens of former ministers, lawmakers and their family members to between five and 20 years in jail under new fast-track anti-graft laws.
The commission could grant clemency to those politicians or businessmen who voluntarily disclose their ill-gotten wealth and refund the money.
Those who admit to corruption would be barred from contesting elections for five years as well as from taking corporate board seats.
The government plans to stage elections by year's end as part of its effort to restore democracy in graft-prone Bangladesh.
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