Bangladesh ex-PM Zia gets five yrs’ jail in graft case

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Feb 2018 08:40:24


 

By Anisur Rahman,

DHAKA,

Khaleda Zia is sentenced in connection with the embezzlement of 21 million takas (USD 252,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust


KHALEDA Zia was on Thursday sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment for corruption, a body blow for the ex-Bangladeshi prime minister and main opposition leader who may be disqualified from contesting the next general elections in December.


The 72-year-old three-time former Prime Minister was sentenced by Dhaka’s Special Court 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 verdict simultaneously sentenced Zia’s ‘fugitive’ elder son and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP’s) senior Vice-President Tarique Rahman as he was tried in absentia. Rahman and four others have been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Judge Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman, who delivering the judgement, said: “The case was proved beyond any doubt against the accused”.


The 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.


Zia, wearing a white sari, appeared in person in the heavily-guarded courtroom amid heightened political tension. Sentencing Zia to rigorous imprisonment, the judge read out the abridged version of the 632-page verdict in 10 minutes.


He said that though all the convicts played identical role in the crime but Zia was given a lesser term taking into account her “age and social status”. The court also said that the defence tried their best to hinder the trial proceedings as they sought time for 35 occasions in the name of changing the court. The other convicts are former lawmaker Kazi Salimul Haque Kamal, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, ex-premier’s principal secretary Kamal Uddin Siddiqui and her nephew Mominur Rahman.


Reacting to the sentencing of her arch-rival, Prime Minister Hasina said, the case as natural consequences of Zia’s past deeds and accused her of looting public property and burning to death over 500 people in a “demonstration of extreme brutality”.


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