Bangladesh Opp. Leader and BNP Head Khaleda Zia Returns to Jail, Faces More Corruption Charges

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Khaleda Zia is the first ever former prime minister of Bangladesh to be convicted and sentenced to jail on a corruption charge. She faces several other corruption cases.

DHAKA: Bangladesh authorities on Thursday sent opposition leader Khaleda Zia back to jail after a month of treatment in hospital here.

The move came just ahead of the official announcement of the date of a general election (expected in last week of December) which the 73-year-old Zia will almost certainly be excluded from because of the prison terms she is serving.

Hospital director Brig. Gen. Abdullah al Harun told reporters Zia had been cleared to go back to Dhaka Central Jail. “Her health has been in adequately stable condition.”

One of her aides, Zahid Hossain, alleged however that Zia’s doctors had not approved her return to jail.

Zia’s lawyers have previously accused Hasina-led government of putting the health of the two-time former prime minister at risk by refusing her specialized care in prison. A wheelchair-bound Khaleda appeared in court on Thursday on Niko graft case.

Zia on Thursday said the Niko deal was signed when incumbent prime minister Shaikh Hasina’s Awami League was in power and the BNP government just maintained its continuity.

When produced before a makeshift court at the Old Central Jail in the Niko graft case, Zia  said “Sheikh Hasina was an accused in the same case; she got acquittal, but not me. If I’m produced before the court then Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina should also be produced before the court in the graft case.”

Responding to her statement, Dhaka Special Judges’ Court-9 Judge Mahmudul Kabir said Hasina has already been acquitted from the graft case by the High Court, so there’s no question of producing her before the court in the case.

The court also set November 14 for the next hearing in the case.

Zia was handed rigorous imprisonment of for five years in February for corruption and has since been held at the British colonial-era prison which was abandoned in 2016 but brought back into service to keep her. She was sentenced in the Zia Orphanage Trust case.

A trial court on Oct 29 sentenced her to seven years rigorous imprisonment in a separate corruption case that involves the Zia Charitable Trust.

The former prime minister and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson was taken to hospital last month when her condition deteriorated.

Her doctors say Zia cannot use her left hand because of severe arthritis. She is diabetic and also has problems with her neck and shoulder.

During her time in hospital, an appeal court doubled the term from the original case (Zia Orphanage Trust) to 10 years.

Zia is now running out of time to make an appeal that could clear her to run in the election expected next month.

Zia’s BNP party has condemned the cases as politically motivated to keep her out of an election showdown with current prime minister and arch-rival Sheikh Hasina.

BNP officials held talks with Hasina on their election demands which included releasing the party leader. Hasina rejected the demand.

The BNP boycotted the 2014 vote in which Hasina returned to power but is expected to contest the election this year.

Zia was made vice-chairperson of BNP in March 1983 after the assassination of her husband and former president, Ziaur Rahman. She became chairperson of the party on May 10, 1984, a post she is holding still today.

Khaleda Zia is the first ever former prime minister of Bangladesh to be convicted and sentenced to jail on corruption charges.

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