Khaleda Zia unlikely to contest elections after prison term extended

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia waves to activists as she arrives for a rally in Dhaka, in this January 20, 2014 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 31 October 2018
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Khaleda Zia unlikely to contest elections after prison term extended

  • Zia’s jail term was extended in connection with her alleged involvement in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case
  • Zia’s eldest son, Tarique Rahman, the acting chairperson of the party, is also accused in the case

DHAKA: Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia cannot contest the forthcoming general election if the country’s Supreme Court doesn’t scrap her punishment, according to the chief law officer of the country, Attorney General Mahbub-e-Alam. He said: “If the Supreme Court stays the High Court verdict that extended her sentence to 10 years’ imprisonment from five years, she can get a release from jail but she cannot contest the election unless the Supreme Court cancels the High Court verdict.”
Alam was taking to reporters on Wednesday after the High Court verdict, which extended Zia’s jail term from five to 10 years in connection with her alleged involvement in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
The attorney general said the defense will have the opportunity to appeal this verdict in the next month.

“But she cannot run for election — even if her appeal remains pending or the operation of her sentence is suspended,” he added.
Earlier, on Feb. 8, a lower court in Dhaka pronounced a verdict of five years’ imprisonment. But the plaintiff of the case, the Anti-Corruption Commission, appealed against the verdict, asking for her punishment period to be increased since she is the main person accused in the case.
Khurshid Alam, the Anti-Corruption Commission’s lawyer, said: “The High Court granted our appeal. So, now all the convicts have the same punishment — 10 years in jail.” Three others, including Zia’s eldest son Tarique Rahman, the acting chairperson of the party, are also accused in the case. Rahman has been in exile in UK for a decade.
However, BNP leaders are still optimistic about the possibilities of Zia contesting in the next election. Advocate Sanaullah Mia, legal affairs secretary of the BNP and a penal lawyer for Zia, told Arab News: “Still there are chances and I don’t understand how the attorney general makes such remarks on this issue.”
But some political analysts say it is not “unprecedented” in many countries for a major political opponent to be kept aside from an election race.
Dr. Asif Nazrul, a Dhaka University teacher in the law department, told Arab News: “Technically still there is scope for her to contest. If the Supreme Court dismisses the ‘Leave to Appeal,’ only then will she be disqualified.”
Whatever, it will not affect her political career if her party, the BNP, wins the election race, Nazrul said. “But if the BNP fails, it will increase the political tension in the society … It may create a trend of revenge through he judicial process and eventually turn into a cause of anger and revenge.”
Toufique Imrose Khalidi, editor-in-chief of BDNEWS24.com, told Arab News: “It is difficult for grassroots BNP supporters to accept a general election in which senior party functionaries will participate, but Khaleda Zia will not or cannot. As things stand today, it appears that her party is all set to take part with or without her and son Tarique Rahman to stop further erosion of the party base.”
Ha added: “Already more than 12 years out of power, the party has very little option but to accept the reality. And the reality is having at least some representation in the new parliament. Or else those who have long been investing in their political careers will get frustrated and look for alternatives, the signs of which are already there.”


Russian port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

Updated 1 min 2 sec ago
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Russian port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

  • The Kremlin announced that Kim will visit Russia to hold his first talks with President Vladimir Putin in late April
  • Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected in Russia’s far-eastern port Vladivostok in the coming days, according to reports that have prompted excitement and concern among local residents.
After weeks of speculation, the Kremlin announced that Kim will visit Russia to hold his first talks with President Vladimir Putin in late April. It gave no details on a date or place, citing “security reasons.”
Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok, home to Moscow’s Pacific Fleet.
The port lies only about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Russia’s short border with North Korea. This proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train.
The 35-year-old will be following in the footsteps of his father Kim Jong Il, who met the newly elected Putin in Vladivostok in 2002.
The far eastern city rarely sees major international events, and some locals are happy for the city to be in the spotlight.
“Any visit is good, whether it’s an enemy or a friend,” said Danil, a student at Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Federal University, billed by the media as a possible venue for the summit.
He welcomed the talks, saying “you can only make decisions through dialogue and communication.”
Nadezhda, a native of the city, said it will be a global event and “will be a boost for development in our city.”
Authorities this week were busy cleaning garbage near railways leading to the city, Russian media reported.
“The depressing view from the train window does not give a positive impression to guests of Vladivostok arriving by train,” an official from the local branch of Russian Railways told the Interfax news agency.
Nadezhda said she was “absolutely not afraid of (North Korea’s) nuclear program” and would like to see the country.
North Korea said this week it was testing nuclear weapons after a round of talks with the US ended in failure.
But Anna Marinina was less enthusiastic about the summit, and said that if Pyongyang did use its weapons, Vladivostok would be in the firing line.
“The people that panic the most about North Korea are safe on the other side of the ocean,” she said.
“If something were to happen, it would fall on us.”
Putin has long said he was ready to meet with Kim and is preparing to play a bigger role in nuclear negotiations with Moscow’s Cold War-era ally.
The last meeting between Russian and North Korean heads of state was in 2011, when Kim’s father traveled by train to Siberia, where he took a boat ride on Lake Baikal and held tightly guarded talks with then president Dmitry Medvedev.
There is a chance however that fresh talks will not take place at all, as Kim pulled out of 2015 celebrations in Moscow for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the last minute.