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FILE PHOTO: Begum Khaleda Zia, former Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the chief of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, arrives in court to seek bail in Dhaka, Bangladesh, August 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain


By Serajul Quadir

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh's opposition leader, former prime minister Khaleda Zia, returned home on Wednesday to a rapturous welcome from her supporters after more than three months away for medical treatment in Britain.

Bangladeshi politics has been mired for years in rivalry between Khaleda and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and Khaleda's return could herald an increase in political activity in preparation for a general election due by the end of next year.

Both women are related to former national leaders, and they have alternated as prime minister for years.

In Khaleda's absence, at least two arrest warrants were issued against her in connection with political turbulence and she was already on bail over several cases.

Her lawyers have dismissed the cases as harassment but a spokesman for her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Mohammad Shamsuddin, said she might appear in court on Thursday in connection with the cases.

Mohammad Shahidul Huq, inspector general of police, told reporters he had no instructions to arrest her.

Hundreds of party supporters waving placards and banners gathered outside the international airport in the capital, Dhaka, to welcome her home.

Bangladesh is struggling to cope with an influx of more than half a million Rohingya Muslim refuges from Myanmar since late August and the crisis could become a divisive issue in the run-up to the election.

(Reporting by Serajul Quadir; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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