Bangladesh ex-PM jailed for five years; plans to appeal

Special Bangladesh ex-PM jailed for five years; plans to appeal
Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Monday rejected former prime minister Khaleda Zia in this photograph taken January 20, 2014. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 February 2018

Bangladesh ex-PM jailed for five years; plans to appeal

Bangladesh ex-PM jailed for five years; plans to appeal

DHAKA: Lawyers acting for Bangladesh Nationalist Party Chairman Begum Khaleda Zia, the country’s former prime minister, who was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of corruption, have announced they will appeal the verdict.
Just after the verdict in the graft case was announced, Zia was sent into a special jail, previously known as the central jail. She had been convicted of embezzling $250,000 in donations meant for an orphanage trust, established when she first became prime minister in 1991.
Five others accused in the same case were given 10-year terms, including her elder son Tarique Rahman, who lives in exile in London.
Barrister Mahbub Uddin Khokon, a member of Zia’s legal panel, said: “We are planning to make an appeal against this verdict. We are expecting to receive the certified copy of the verdict by early next week and file an appeal to the high court.”
The verdict puts Zia’s political future in jeopardy as the ruling could bar her from standing the forthcoming general election in December.
“According to the law of the country, if anyone is convicted by the court for more than two years, the person cannot compete in the Parliament election for that period,” says Law Minister Anisul Huq.
“But if the appeal hearing continues in the upper court and the proceedings of the case remains in a continuous process, she will be able to compete in the election. The matter will be decided by the upper court and the independent Election Commission of the country,” he added.
BNP has already rejected the verdict, declaring two days of protest throughout the country. Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the party’s Secretary General, said the case was “politically motivated” and that she had been convicted on the basis of fake documents.
He added: “This conviction happened to refrain her from participating in the next general election and to undermine her politically. This verdict will intensify the present political crisis in the country. Due to this, people will lose confidence in the judicial system of the country.”
However, in response, ruling party Awamileague’s publicity affairs secretary Dr. Hasan Mahmud, countered: “It is not a matter of our satisfaction or dissatisfaction. No one is above the law and once again this is proved through the judgment of this graft case.”
The expert political scientist Dr. Dilara Chowdhury commnented that Zia represents “a social force of the country which represents the 38% of the population”. He predicted a repeat of the 2014 general election which the BNP did not participate in.
The Jahangirnagar University academic added: “In this process we may also notice an effort to break the unity of BNP. Breaking the unity of political party or horse trading has been a tradition in our politics since the Pakistan regime. But still it will not be able to include the mainstream BNP in the election process.”
More than 30 additional cases are still pending against Zia.