Bangladesh Supreme Court stays ex-PM’s bail order

Bangladesh's former prime minister and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia, center, leaves after a court appearance in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (AP)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Bangladesh Supreme Court stays ex-PM’s bail order

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Monday stayed the bail order of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, which was granted to her by the High Court earlier this month until May 8.
A lower court sentenced her to five years’ imprisonment on Feb. 8 for misappropriating funds for the Zia Orphanage Trust.
She appealed to the High Court, which granted her four-month interim bail because of her age and health.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed the graft case against her in 2008. On March 15, the ACC and the attorney general’s office filed two leave-to-appeal petitions before the appellate division of the Supreme Court, demanding a stay on the bail order granted by the High Court.
A four-member bench of the appellate division, headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, stayed the bail order.
As such, Zia will have to stay in jail until May 8, and on the same day the Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the appeal against the bail order.
“It is an undesirable decision given by the highest court of the country. We are very much upset with this unprecedented order,” said her lawyer Joinul Abedin.
“In recent times, the government has influenced the lower court’s decisions. Now it seems the higher court is also not free from government influence.”
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which is led by Zia, said the ruling party is hindering the legal process to prolong her imprisonment.
The Supreme Court’s decision “reflects the government’s desire,” he said. “Zia and we have been denied justice by the country’s apex court, which is the last resort of the people.”
Political analyst Dr. Asif Nazrul said the handling of Zia’s bail has raised “strong doubts about whether this is a judicial process or political revenge.”
Nazrul said he believes it is an attempt to marginalize the BNP in the next general election, which is scheduled to take place by the end of the year.
“These things are being done to declare Zia incompetent in the next election,” he said. “I think the government will not allow her to participate. It is trying in every possible way to keep her in jail until then.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last month said the government had nothing to do with Zia’s sentence.
Hasina added that the BNP is free to boycott the next election, as it did the last one. “Elections are a democratic right of the people,” she said. “Here, we have a multi-party democracy.”


Japan minister apologizes after ‘sexy yoga’ claims

Updated 4 min 16 sec ago
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Japan minister apologizes after ‘sexy yoga’ claims

TOKYO: Japan’s education minister apologized Wednesday for using an official car to visit a yoga studio, but denied claims that the facility was offering “sexy private yoga.”
The row is the latest headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which is already under fire after two cronyism scandals and sexual harassment claims against a top finance ministry bureaucrat.
The Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine on Wednesday reported that Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi visited a yoga studio in the hip Ebisu district in Tokyo using a state car and took private lessons there.
“I apologize for creating confusion amid a tense parliamentary situation,” Hayashi told reporters.
“As the government is facing severe rebuke and criticism, I will serve the public in a more disciplined manner,” he said, in an apparent reference to various scandals involving the cabinet in recent weeks.
“I should have drawn a line between the public and the private, even though this case was in line with rules,” he added.
Ministers are permitted to use government vehicles for private use in between public engagements, local media said.
The magazine described the yoga studio as a “sexy private yoga” studio run by a former porn actress that offers private lessons and oil massages.
But Hayashi said he was simply taking “regular yoga lessons and massages with finger pressure” for better health.
The president of the yoga studio has denied that she was ever a porn actress and is demanding a correction and an apology from the magazine.
“I firmly deny the article which presents an indecent image and is completely different from the facts,” she said.
The studio’s website says it offers private lessons for men or couples.
Support for Abe’s government has flagged due to two cronyism scandals and criticism of the way the finance ministry has handled claims that its top bureaucrat sexually harassed female reporters.
Around half of voters now disapprove of Abe’s administration, and a similar number want his Finance Minister Taro Aso to step down, polls published Monday found.
The polls bode ill for Abe’s bid to be reelected party chief in September in a vote he was once expected to win easily.