Ex-Bangladesh PM Zia gets bail in corruption case
By: Anisur Rahman
Dhaka, Mar 12 : Bangladesh’s ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia today received a temporary relief after a top court granted the opposition BNP chief a four-month bail in a corruption case, a month after she was sentenced to five years in jail.
Zia, 72, was sentenced to five years in jail on February 8 in connection with the embezzlement of 21 million taka (about USD 250,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman, a military ruler-turned-politician.
The High Court in Dhaka today granted the chairperson of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) a four-month interim bail.
“The bench granted her bail for four months and simultaneously ordered authorities to prepare arguments on her appeal against the conviction and imprisonment,” a court official said.
The bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Shahidul Karim said it considered Zia’s age factor as one of the reasons for granting the bail, the official said.
Court officials said the bail was granted after reviewing the case documents received from the trial court.
The court said it was granting the former prime minister interim bail considering four grounds after hearing both parties.
The four grounds are – the lower term of her sentence, the paper book has not been prepared yet, she appeared before the court and did not abuse her bail during trial, and her age and health condition.
The bench, however, stayed the fine of Taka 2.10 crore slapped on Zia.
On February 8, the court had also sentenced five other accused, including Khaleda’s son and BNP’s acting chairperson Tarique Rahman, to 10 years’ imprisonment and fined them Tk2.1 crore each. Tarique, who is in the UK now, and Mominur Rahman, nephew of late president Ziaur Rahman, are still shown as fugitives in the case documents.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, who represented the state, said they would appeal against Khaleda’s bail order.
“We have already started the process to file the appeal. Hopefully, we will be able to file it tomorrow (Tuesday),” he told reporters at his Supreme Court office after today’s ruling.
The verdict against Zia had jolted the country’s political scenario ahead of this year’s general elections.
The BNP has claimed that the cases are politically-motivated to keep its party chief out of the national elections.
Law Minister Anisul Huq told newsmen that the High Court order today proved the government had no interference in the case.
The corruption case is one of dozens pending against Zia, who has been a rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for decades.
The charges against her had already led to her boycotting polls in 2014, which triggered widespread protests at the time. (PTI)