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Bangladesh: Opposition leader jailed for 5 years

09 February 2018

A Bangladesh court on Thursday sentenced Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to five years in prison after convicting her of embezzling funds that were meant for an orphanage, The Daily Star reported.

Speaking to bdnews24.com after the verdict on Thursday, CPB President Mujahidul Islam Selim said, "We want a country free of corruption and all the people involved in graft need to stand trial no matter what political party they belong to". He read out selected parts of the 632-page verdict.

Zia, 72, is a former ally turned arch-foe of Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Even if the BNP tries to build a movement claiming that the government is harassing its leader to prevent her from contesting the polls, it can be argued that the cases date back to 2008, when a caretaker government was in power.

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A senior officer said more than 5,000 policemen had been deployed in Dhaka. Alamgir said that, anticipating what the verdict would be, Zia had earlier ordered that all BNP activists and leaders refrain from any violent protests and processions. "It may also give her conditional bail by restricting her political activities", he said. Zia's conviction is unlikely to find much sympathy in New Delhi or Washington, diplomatic sources told Asia Times.

"She was given a shorter term considering her health and social status", Judge Mohammad Akhteruzzaman said as he passed sentence in a packed courtroom.

To recall, the BNP had boycotted the 2014 polls but is expected to contest the upcoming general election. "We will appeal against the judgment as soon as we get the certified copy of the verdict", Mahbub Uddin Khokon, one of Zia's lawyers, told BenarNews.

Ahead of the hearing police fired tear gas at thousands of opposition activists who defied heavy security to escort the auto taking Zia to the magistrates court.

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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. "I am confident she will come out of jail".

But thousands of BNP supporters defied a daylong ban on political gatherings and clashed with police in at least four areas in Dhaka.

Elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion and armed police kept a sharp vigil, blocking temporarily the thoroughfares she used for ordinary vehicles. The opposition has accused the government of arresting hundreds of supporters ahead of the verdict.

Ruhul Kabir Rizvi Ahmed, spokesman for Zia's Bangladesh National Party, called on supporters to demonstate peacerfully against the ruling. He also accused the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of trying "to keep the BNP out of politics". Tarique Rahman lives in exile in London. He was tried in absentia along with two others. Zia appeared before the Dhaka court in connection with the Zia Orphanage Trust and Zia Charitable Trust corruption cases.

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Bangladesh: Opposition leader jailed for 5 years