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.”


French police clear fuel protesters as movement wanes

Updated 42 min 6 sec ago
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French police clear fuel protesters as movement wanes

PARIS: French police cleared demonstrators blocking roads and fuel depots Tuesday in a crackdown on the so-called "yellow vest" protests against President Emmanuel Macron that have left two people dead.
Hundreds of thousands of people blockaded roads across France on the weekend, wearing high-visibility yellow vests in a national wave of defiance aimed at 40-year-old centrist Macron.
The protests had waned by Tuesday but the disruption underlined the anger and frustration felt by many motorists, particularly in rural areas or small towns, fed up with what they see as the government's anti-car policies, including tax hikes on diesel.
Macron, who has made a point of not backing down in the face of public pressure during his time in office, called Tuesday for more "dialogue" to better explain his policies.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, meanwhile, urged ruling Republic On The Move lawmakers to stand firm in the face of voter criticism, saying the party would reap the rewards of its "constancy and determination".
Two people have been accidentally killed and 530 people injured, 17 seriously, over four days of protests that have come to encompass a wide variety of grievances over the rising cost of living.
A 37-year-old motorcyclist died Tuesday from injuries sustained a day earlier after being hit by a truck making a u-turn to avoid a roadblock in the southeast Drome region, a judicial source said.
The other victim was a 63-year-old woman accidently killed by a panicked driver in the eastern Savoie region on the first day of protests.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has instructed police to break up the remaining roadblocks, particularly those around fuel depots and sites of strategic importance.
"We can see today that there are real excesses from a movement that was for the most part conducted in good spirit on Saturday," he told France 2 TV.
The ministry said about 20 "strategic" sites and fuel depots in several regions were cleared of protesters Tuesday.
Some hardliners kept blockades and slowdowns at some tolls, motorway junctions, and roundabouts.
"The movement won't run out of steam," said Olivier Garrigues, a farmworker at one protest in the south. "There are less people because everyone is working. But we are organised."
Several of the injuries were caused by motorists trying to force their way through roadblocks, but some protesters have also been accused of intimidating and endangering motorists.
A 32-year-old man with a history of violence was given a four-month prison sentence by a Strasbourg court for putting lives at risk by taking part in a human chain across a motorway.
Protests have also erupted in Reunion, a French overseas territory island in the Indian Ocean, where authorities introduced a partial curfew in some neighbourhoods after a night of violence.
AFP judicial sources Tuesday denied media reports that a group of men arrested earlier this month in the city of Saint-Etienne on suspicion of plotting an attack had planned to strike during Saturday's fuel protests.
On Tuesday, the "yellow vests" appeared to be losing steam, with only a fraction of the nearly 300,000 people that manned the barricades on Saturday still camped out in the bitter cold.
Further protests are planned for the weekend, with some calling for a blockade of Paris.
The grassroots movement, which has won backing from opposition parties on both the left and right as well as a majority of respondents in opinion polls, accuses Macron of squeezing the less well-off while reducing taxes for the rich.
"It's about much more than fuel. They (the government) have left us with nothing," Dominique, a 50-year-old unemployed technician told AFP at a roadblock in the town of Martigues, near the southern city of Marseille.
Macron's government, trying to improve its environmental credentials, has vowed not to back down on trying to wean people off their cars through fuel taxes.
The government has unveiled a 500-million-euro package of measures to help low-income households, including energy subsidies and higher scrappage bonuses for the purchase of cleaner vehicles.