Bangladesh former PM sentenced to five years in prison

09 February, 2018, 03:26 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • Bangladesh ex-PM Khaleda Zia

Zia's conviction in an election year could destabilize Bangladesh, which has already seen her rival, Sheikh Hasina, rule for 10 years.

Traffic was thrown out of gear and shops closed as security forces took the 72-year-old politician to the old central jail in Dhaka after the verdict.

The six were accused of embezzling over Tk 21 million ($252,000) from foreign donations intended for a charity named after former President Ziaur Rahman, Zia's husband.

Zia's son, Tarique Rahman, and four others have been sentenced to 10 years in jail each in the same case, which was opened by the country's AntiCorruption Commission in 2008.

Meanwhile five police officers were so far injured in clashes with supporters of convicted Khaleda Zia in Dhaka while the police used tear gas to disperse the protesters.

The verdict could possibly bar Zia from contesting in the general elections as the country's constitution prohibits a convicted person with over two years jail-term from participating. An opposition spokesman told Human Rights Watch that thousands had been detained including members of the BNP, the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami, and others not linked to any party.

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The possibility of the absence of Khaleda from the political amphitheatre may be significant for the BNP as political parties in Bangladesh - except the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is a religion-based political outfit - can not survive without faces.

Law Minister Anisul Haq told journalists that " she (Khaleda Zia) will land in jail today". "She can also seek bail". "If the Awami League can use the opportunity to go to town over Khaleda's corruption, they can minimise the impact of anti-incumbency", the diplomat said, adding that the verdict in another corruption case involving Khaleda was lined up later this month.

Many private schools declared a holiday in anticipation of the verdict, while several ride-hailing services suspended operations for the day. "No way we will accept this verdict", BNP secretary-general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said after the hearing. "As per the Constitution, a person can not contest the national polls if he or she is sentenced to jail for two years or more".

Hundreds of BNP supporters chanting slogans walked alongside Zia's auto as it approached the court, while pro-opposition lawyers staged raucous protests at the Supreme Court.

"It's up to the appeals court to decide whether she will be eligible to run", he said after the verdict.

Her party boycotted 2014 polls in which Ms Hasina was re-elected but is expected to contest the next election.

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