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Bangladesh ex-PM appears in anti-graft court amid clashes

DHAKA, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- Bangladesh police Wednesday used tear gas and rubber bullets against opposition protesters, as they locked in sporadic clashes outside a makeshift court in capital Dhaka, where former prime minister Khaleda Zia appeared for hearing in two graft cases.

The clashes began after activists of Chhatra League, student wing of ruling Bangladesh Awami League party, allegedly attacked a Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) procession minutes before Khaleda Zia's motorcade arrived the premises of the special court set up at an old Dhaka school at around 12.00 p.m. local time.

Clashes outside the court continued even after Khaleda entered the school building to appear before a newly appointed Judge of Special Judge Court-3 Abu Ahmed Jamadar.

A number of vehicles were smashed or set on fire in the incident.

Several bomb explosions were heard during the clash but no casualties have been reported.

Traffic remained suspended for hours following the clashes, leaving dozens of people injured.

Thousands of BNP members have gathered in court surrounding areas since the morning to welcome Khaleda Zia.

Police reportedly used rubber bullets, fire teargas shells and charged batons to disperse the agitators.

Meanwhile, the activists of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, the student wing of BNP, allegedly torched the private car of a ruling party lawmaker Chhabi Biswas who has also been injured in the clash.

No police official was available for comment on the incident.

The situation, however, eased to a large extent after Khaleda Zia left the court area at about 1:00 p.m.

The court has fixed Jan. 7 for the deposition hearing of Khaleda Zia, also chairperson of BNP, in the Zia Charitable Trust and Zia Orphanage Trust graft cases.

Bangladesh's Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) filed one of the cases in July 2008, saying that Khaleda and five others including her elder son Tarique Rahman had embezzled over 20 million taka ( 253,164 U.S. dollars) from an orphanage trust during her 2001-2006 term as prime minister.

In 2011, the anti-graft body sued the BNP chief and three others for pocketing 31.5 million taka (397,435 U.S. dollars) of the Zia Charitable Trust in the name of her late husband, former president Ziaur Rahman.

Khaleda has said political vendettas are to blame for the cases against her and her sons.

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