Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia sentenced in graft case


Bangladesh opposition leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia on Thursday asked her weeping relatives and supporters not to worry and remain strong minutes before she was sentenced to five years in jail in a graft case.

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

The 72-year-old politician, who heads the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was convicted for transferring 21 million taka ($252,200; 206,000 euros) from a charity, the Zia Orphanage Trust, to her personal account.

A judge announced the verdict to the court in Dhaka on Thursday, sentencing Zia to five years in jail for the misappropriation of funds.

Security forces have swarmed Bangladesh's cities ahead of the verdict, fearing clashes with Zia's supporters.

The Bangladesh government should publicly order the security forces to abide by worldwide standards on policing demonstrations, Human Rights Watch said.

"She will get all the facilities as per the jail code", he said while talking to reporters at the secretariat.

In a press conference ahead of the verdict, Zia had claimed she was implicated in a false case, and accused the ruling government of unleashing terror.

The Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case with Ramna Police Station accusing six persons including Khaleda and BNP's senior vice chairman and her son Tarique Rahman.

Police foiled several protests by BNP activists at several points in Jamalpur town on Thursday | Dhaka Tribune
Police foiled several protests by BNP activists at several points in Jamalpur town on Thursday | Dhaka Tribune

Zia is now disqualified from contesting the upcoming national elections in December.

According to the reports, Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of the Special Court-5 sentenced the two-time former Prime Minister to the five-year imprisonment. The crowd was dispersed by police personnel using tear gas.

Zia's elder sister, her sisters-in-law, her younger brother, nephews and her lawyers accompanied her to the court.

The trial against Zia centred around the donation intended for an orphanage trust set up when she was Prime Minister.

Earlier, as Ms. Zia was escorted from her home to the court in a motorcade, clashes broke out between police and BNP activists at the Kakrail area.

BNP's joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the sentence was a "blueprint to destroy Begum Khaleda Zia,"adding that the "people of Bangladesh will reject this verdict".

The opposition boycotted the previous general election in 2014, saying the government would not guarantee fair results.

Talking on point of order, they also said the verdict proved that no one would be spared after indulging in corruption.

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