Bangladesh released former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who faces graft charges, on parole for eight weeks on Wednesday to go abroad for medical treatment.
She is likely to leave for the United States aboard a British Airways flight early on Thursday, a senior prison official said.
From prison Hasina was driven to her residence in Dhaka's Dhanmandi area under tight security.
Thousands of followers and members of her Awami League political party cheered her on the way, as she waved back at them from her car, witnesses said.
Hasina was arrested by the army-backed interim government in July last year on charges of graft and misuse of power while she was prime minister between 1996-2001.
Although party officials spoke as if they assumed Hasina would be returning, some analysts fear once she leaves she will not be allowed back, and that if fellow former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia left the country that would also be her fate.
That could enable the military-backed interim government to re-shape Bangladesh's politics ahead of nationwide polls in December.
Courts prosecuting Hasina for corruption charges ruled on Monday that trials would continue in her absence.
A government-appointed medical board suggested on Sunday that Hasina be sent abroad immediately for medical treatment.
She is suffering from high blood pressure, eye problems and hearing impairment caused by grenade blasts at a rally in Dhaka in 2004, which killed 23 people.
Another medical board separately advised that Hasina's rival Khaleda also to be treated abroad for health problems.
But she turned down the suggestion, saying she would like to be treated in Bangladesh, although she asked for medical care overseas for her two sons, also in jail facing corruption charges.
Khaleda told a court trying her for corruption on Tuesday that the interim government, headed by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed, was "unlawful and running the country in violation of the constitution".
Awami League leaders, upbeat over Hasina's likely release and treatment abroad, said late on Tuesday they might join an election promised by the military-backed interim government for December.
The Awami League had threatened to boycott the vote if Hasina was not released.
"We must be ready for the election, make all the preparations while our leader (Hasina) is away," said senior Awami leader Tofayel Ahmed.
"Surely we will contest the election with Sheikh Hasina ... and win it under Hasina's leadership to revert the country to democracy," said another Awami leader, Amir Hossain Amu.
They expected Hasina to go to the party office to meet fellow leaders and give them directives before flying out of the country.
Hasina and Khaleda alternated as prime ministers for 15 years and their parties remain Bangladesh's biggest.
The interim authority tried to block Hasina's return from a trip to the United States early last year but backed down in the face of domestic protests and international pressure.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Haziran 2008, 12:30