Bangladesh ex-PM sentenced to 5 years in jail

Frederick Owens
February 9, 2018

A court in Dhaka, Bangladesh sentenced former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia to five years in prison for embezzling about $250,000 in foreign aid, sparking fears of violence.

Her son Rahman lives in exile in London and was convicted of money-laundering in 2016.

In the same case, Zia's eldest son and BNP's senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman was given 10 years in jail.

The conviction means that Zia, the archrival of the current prime minister, could be barred from running in December national elections.

Khaleda's conviction "proves that Bangladesh has the rule of law and that no one is above the law", Law Minister Anisul Huq told reporters after the decision. The same jail term was handed down to four of her aides. "It may also give her conditional bail by restricting her political activities", he said. "Considering her social and physical status, Zia has been sentenced to five years in jail", he said.

Zia became the second head of the government after former military dictator-turned-politician HM Ershad to be convicted in a graft case.

"She can challenge the ruling in the High Court after getting a certified copy of the verdict", he said. "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".

In his reply Haq did not specifically mention Bangladesh, but said, "All peacekeepers are vetted to make sure that they have not engaged in any practices that involve violation of the human rights and we go through that on a country-by-country basis".

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.

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Minutes after judge Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman announced the court's verdict, security forces led Zia to jail.

The original jail was relocated recently to suburban Keraniganj but officials said they renovated the day care centre of the facility to accommodate the ex-premier.

"But it (the high court) may not suspend the order, which would come in the way of her participating in the polls".

She said the trial process of the former prime minister was transparent.

Elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion and armed police kept a sharp vigil, blocking temporarily the thoroughfares she used for ordinary vehicles.

Police have set up check-posts at key entry points of the city in an effort to prevent thousands of rural supporters of BNP and its Islamist allies from marching to the capital.

Protesters gathered, shouting their support, forcing police to use tear gas to disperse them.

Now, what is the corruption case against Zia? He was tried in absentia, along with two other people. She was found guilty of embezzling the funds.

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