Source AP ©

Police in northeastern Bangladesh arrest city mayor on charges of corruption

Police in northeastern Bangladesh arrested a city mayor on corruption charges Friday, as the military-backed government pressed its drive to wipe out graft among officials, using emergency rules, witnesses said.

Officials detained Badruddin Ahmed Kamran early Friday at his home in Sylhet city in front of scores of local journalists, reporter Humayun Rasheed Chowdhury told The Associated Press by phone. The city is 190 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of the capital, Dhaka.

Kamran told reporters before entering a police van that investigators had told him that he was being arrested on charges of corruption involving leasing at a city market.

"I'm innocent, I'll fight in the court," Kamran told reporters as police drove him away. "I didn't flee despite knowing that I would be arrested."

Kamran is a senior member of the Awami League party headed by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The interim government led by respected economist Fakhruddin Ahmed launched the anti-corruption drive after a state of emergency was declared on Jan. 11 to quell months of violent street protests over electoral reforms.

The country's national polls originally slated for Jan. 22 were also canceled because of the political unrest, in which 34 people died.

Since Jan. 11, security forces have arrested more than 160 politicians, including former ministers, in the drive against corruption. Most of the detainees belong to the country's two major political parties - the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Awami League.

No new election date has been declared, and the country's Chief Election Commissioner A.T.M. Shamsul Huda on Thursday said they would need at least 18 months to prepare a flawless electoral roll with photographs of voters, which means there was no chance of a new election in one year and a half.

The government has vowed to reform the country's political system, which it says is tainted by corruption, before holding the new elections.