Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Bangladesh court hands jail term to former PM Khaleda Zia

Former prime minister of Bangladesh sentenced for corruption Bangladesh court jails opposition leader Khaleda Zia for five years
Ellis Copeland | 10 February, 2018, 03:31

A court in Bangladesh sentenced opposition leader Khaleda Zia to five years in jail on Thursday after convicting the two-time former premier of embezzling money meant for an orphanage.

Her lawyers said she planned to appeal against her conviction, and will mostly likely be freed on bail pending that process.

Zia was found guilty of embezzlement of 252,000 Dollars from a trust created for an orphanage in the name of her late husband and Bangladesh's former President Ziaur Rahman.

Authorities have for days been on high alert for protests in the tense city, where political demonstrations by Zia's centre-right BNP and its Islamist allies in 2014 and 2015 left almost 200 people dead.

The verdict simultaneously sentenced Zia's "fugitive" elder son and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP's) senior Vice-President Tarique Rahman as he was tried in absentia.

Law Minister Anisul Huq said justice had been meted out for corruption. Zia, the current head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was convicted of stealing 21 million taka ($253,000) while prime minister from 2001 to 2006. The law stipulates that if someone is convicted for at least two years, he or she can not contest the election for the next five years. Sentencing Zia to rigorous imprisonment, the judge read out the abridged version of the 632-page verdict in 10 minutes.

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Ruhul Kabir Rizbi, a close Zia aide, rejected the verdict, saying the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was looking for a way to weaken Zia politically.

In Narayanganj district near Dhaka, at least one person died and 25 were admitted to hospital after BNP supporters clashed with police and ruling party activists.

The government should publicly order the security forces to abide by worldwide standards on policing demonstrations, it added. However, if the higher court upholds her sentence, she will get disqualified.

Activists from the ruling Awami League and its affiliate organisations had also occupied key points of Dhaka to stop BNP supporters from demonstrating. In the capital Dhaka alone, about 10,000 police and paramilitary border force were out on the streets manning checkpoints.

He said the government had shown "immense compassion, speed, and mercy" in dealing with the challenges and called for the safe and dignified return of the Rohingyas back to their country.

Zia faces a total of 37 cases, charge sheets have been submitted in 17 of them.

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