Bangladesh court defers decision on Zia's bail plea

Wednesday 28th February 2018 05:51 EST

DHAKA: Bangladesh's High Court has deferred verdict on imprisoned ex-prime minister and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia's bail petition, saying it would decide after receiving necessary papers from the lower court. The 72-year-old three-time former prime minister was given a five-year jail term by Dhaka's Special Court on February 8 in connection with the embezzlement of 21 million taka (about USD 250,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman.

"The two-judge bench said it would issue the order on the petition after receiving the case documents from the trial court." The February 8 verdict virtually shook the country's political scenario ahead of the general elections while the BNP, the main opposition party outside Parliament, alleged that it was politically motivated to debar Zia from contesting elections, an allegation denied by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina-led government.

The high vourt had earlier this week accepted for hearing her bail petition along with prayers, challenging her conviction and ordered authorities concerned to forward the case records in 15 days. Political analysts feared that the BNP was now exposed to a political wilderness after Zia's conviction, which is likely to disqualify her for elections unless she could obtain a different direction from the Supreme Court.

BNP's secretary general Mirza Falhrul Islam Alamgir earlier last week told a protest rally that the party would not take part in polls discarding Zia and "no national election will be held without BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia". But Sheikh Hasina said her government could do nothing if the BNP again decides to boycott the polls over its leader's imprisonment but elections would be held in due time.

Judge MD Akhteruzzaman of the Special Judge Court passed the order extending the bail after Zia's barrister Moudud Ahmed submitted a petition seeking an extension of her bail in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case. The Zia charitable graft case, filed in August 2011, accuses four persons including Zia of abusing power to raise funds for the trust from unknown sources.

The corruption case is one of dozens pending against Zia, who has been a rival to Hasina for decades. The charges against her had already led to her boycotting polls in 2014, which triggered widespread protests at the time.

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