Bangladesh court doubles jail term for opposition leader

Bangladesh main opposition leader Khaleda Zia, center, whose jail term was doubled over embezzlement charges, is escorted to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in Dhaka this October 6 photo. (AFP)
Updated 30 October 2018
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Bangladesh court doubles jail term for opposition leader

  • The increased term was ordered over embezzlement charges for which Khaleda Zia was sentenced in February
  • The February verdict triggered violent clashes in major cities across the country

DHAKA: A Bangladesh court on Tuesday doubled a jail term for imprisoned opposition leader Khaleda Zia from five to 10 years following a prosecution appeal.
The decision came the day after Zia, 73, was ordered jailed for seven years in a separate case, piling pressure on the opposition ahead of a national election.
The increased term was ordered over embezzlement charges for which Zia, arch-rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was sentenced in February.
“The high court has upheld the lower court verdict and raised the jail sentence from original five years to 10 years,” anti-corruption commission prosecutor Khurshid A Khan said.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition movement that Zia still leads from behind bars, has vowed nationwide marches later Tuesday to protest the verdict.
The latest court ruling deals a crushing blow to the BNP and its embattled leader, who despite being jailed had clung to a faint hope of running against Hasina in election slated for December.
“She cannot contest the elections unless the conviction is set aside by a higher court,” Bangladesh’s attorney general Mahbubey Alam said.
Zia was originally found guilty and sentenced to five years for embezzling money meant for an orphanage, a charge her supporters say is politically motivated.
That verdict in February triggered violent clashes in major cities across the Muslim-majority democracy of 160 million, with opposition demonstrators clashing with police and activists from the ruling party.
Zia, widow of assassinated military dictator Ziaur Rahman, faces dozens of separate charges related to violence and corruption that her lawyers insist are baseless.
Her son and heir-apparent Tarique Rahman was jailed for life in absentia this month over a 2004 grenade attack on a Hasina political rally. Rahman lives in exile in London.
In recent months, her health has deteriorated inside the abandoned 19th-century jail — where she is the only inmate — with a physician saying that arthritis has rendered Zia’s left hand useless.
Her lawyers have accused the government of putting her health at risk by refusing her specialized care in prison.


New York City Mayor de Blasio ends 2020 presidential bid

Updated 20 September 2019

New York City Mayor de Blasio ends 2020 presidential bid

  • The mayor, who is barred from seeking a third four-year term in New York in 2021, struggled to build a national profile and stand out in a crowded field
  • De Blasio had failed to qualify for a Sept. 12 debate that featured the 10 leading candidates for the party’s nomination

NEW YORK: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said during an MSNBC television appearance that he was dropping out of the 2020 presidential campaign.
De Blasio, 58, launched his candidacy in May with the central campaign message “Working People First,” becoming the 24th Democrat to attempt to take on President Donald Trump in next year’s election.
The mayor, who is barred from seeking a third four-year term in New York in 2021, struggled to build a national profile and stand out in a crowded field that includes former Vice President Joe Biden and a long list of experienced politicians.
News of the mayor ending his presidential bid was greeted with sarcasm by Trump.
“Oh no, really big political news, perhaps the biggest story in years! Part time Mayor of New York City, @BilldeBlasio, who was polling at a solid ZERO but had tremendous room for growth, has shocking dropped out of the Presidential race,” Trump tweeted early on Friday. “NYC is devastated, he’s coming home!“
De Blasio had registered little support in polls and was eclipsed by progressive US senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
De Blasio said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that a “central reason” for his decision was the party’s rules for qualifying for televised debates. He had failed to qualify for a Sept. 12 debate that featured the 10 leading candidates for the party’s nomination.
“The bar is so high so early that for a lot of us — clearly, some of my fellow chief executives, governors — couldn’t make that cut,” de Blasio said. “It’s clear to me it’s a high bar, and that it’s one I’m not going to be able to meet.”
De Blasio had emphasized during the campaign a list of progressive wins under his leadership, including universal pre-kindergarten, the end of the policing practice known as stop-and-frisk and paid sick leave, all in a city that has a bigger population, more than 8 million, than most US states.
Most New Yorkers had appeared unenthused about de Blasio’s presidential aspirations. A Quinnipiac University poll in April found more than three-quarters of New Yorkers did not feel he should make a White House bid.