Bangladesh opposition names Khaleda Zia’s son acting leader

Bangladesh security personnel stand guard at the entrance of the special court, which convicted opposition leader Khaleda Zia of corruption and sentenced her to five years in jail. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2018
0

Bangladesh opposition names Khaleda Zia’s son acting leader

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s main opposition party named the exiled eldest son of Khaleda Zia as its acting head on Friday, a day after a court jailed its leader for corruption.
Zia, 72, spent the night in jail after she was sentenced to five years over the embezzlement of $252,000 meant for an orphanage, a charge she has dismissed as politically motivated.
Her son Tarique Rahman, who was also found guilty of involvement in but escaped prison because he lives in London, will be the party’s interim leader.
“He is the new acting chairman in accordance with the party’s constitution,” Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.
The conviction could prevent Zia from running in a general election slated for December, although she is expected to appeal.
She spent the night in what her party officials say is a disused jail in the old part of Dhaka.
“She is in isolation,” said Alamgir, adding that her conviction is “part of a government blueprint to establish one-party rule.”
Rahman, 53, fled to London in 2008 after he was detained by an army-backed government for more than 18 months.
In 2016, he was convicted in absentia and sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of money laundering.
Prosecutors have also sought his death sentence over a 2004 grenade attack at a rally of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in which more than 20 people were killed and she was injured.
The BNP plans to stage nationwide demonstrations late Friday afternoon in protest at the verdict.
Alamgir said opposition parties had been barred from holding protests and alleged curbs on media freedom by the government.
Violence erupted in major cities across Bangladesh as news of the guilty verdict spread on Thursday, with BNP supporters clashing with police and activists from the ruling party.
Police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators in the northeastern city of Sylhet. At least four people have been injured in the clashes.
Authorities have for days been on high alert for protests in tense Dhaka, where political demonstrations by BNP and its Islamist allies in 2014 and 2015 left nearly 200 people dead.
Around 3,500 opposition activists and officials were arrested in a sweep by security forces ahead of the verdict, according to the BNP.
Zia is a former ally turned arch-foe of Hasina. Her party boycotted 2014 polls in which Hasina was re-elected but is expected to contest the upcoming general election.


Malaysia says search for Flight MH370 to end next week

Updated 11 min 26 sec ago
0

Malaysia says search for Flight MH370 to end next week

  • Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014
  • Voice 370, a group representing the relatives of those aboard the flight, had called on the new government to review all matters related to MH370

KUALA LUMPUR: A private search by a US firm for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in 2014 in one of the world’s biggest aviation mysteries, will end on Tuesday, Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said on Wednesday.
Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.
Malaysia had agreed in January to pay Houston-based Ocean Infinity up to $70 million if it found the plane during a 90-day search in the southern Indian Ocean.
The hunt for the Boeing 777 was previously expected to end in June, as the 90-day agreement did not cover time taken for refueling and resupplying search vessel Seabed Constructor.
However, Ocean Infinity had finished scouring its targeted search area in April and had requested an extension until May 29, Loke said.
“This morning I raised this (request) in cabinet and we agreed to extend to May 29,” he told reporters in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital. Asked it that mean no further extensions, he said: “Yes.”
Newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had earlier said Malaysia would review and possibly end its agreement with Ocean Infinity, amid other moves to cut government spending.
Mahathir, 92, ousted the long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, led by ex-premier and former protege Najib Razak, in a stunning election upset on May 9.
Loke, who was sworn in as minister on Monday, said the government would release a full report on the investigation into MH370’s disappearance after the offshore search was completed, but had not yet determined a date for the report’s release.
Voice 370, a group representing the relatives of those aboard the flight, had called on the new government to review all matters related to MH370, including “any possible falsification or elimination of records related to MH370 and its maintenance.”
“I’m not privy to whatever details that may not have been revealed, but as minister, I am committed to releasing all details to the public,” Loke said.
The decision to engage Ocean Infinity came after Australia, China and Malaysia ended a fruitless A$200 million ($159.38 million) search across a 120,000 square-km (46,332 square miles) area in the Indian Ocean last year, despite investigators calling for the target area to be extended 25,000 square kilometers (9653 square miles) north.
The Seabed Constructor has covered 86,000 square kilometers (33,205 square miles) so far but has yet to identify any significant findings, Ocean Infinity said in its weekly search update on May 15.