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Bangladesh court extends bail for Zia until April 22

PTI | Dhaka |

A court in Bangladesh on Thursday extended the bail of imprisoned ex-prime minister and main opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia until April 22 in a graft case, media reports said.

The 72-year-old three-time former prime minister was jailed for five years on February 8 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.

Judge Mohamad Akhtaruzzaman of the Special Judge Court-5 passed the order today after Zia’s lawyers submitted a petition seeking the extension of the bail in connection with the Zia Charitable Trust corruption case, The Daily Star reported.

Zia, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief, was not produced before the court as she was “physically sick”, according to jail authorities.

The court also ordered authorities to produce her before it on April 22, the report said.

On March 28, the special court had fixed the date of April 5 for hearing arguments in the case.

The Zia Charitable Trust graft case, filed in 2011, accuses four persons including Zia of abusing power to raise funds for the trust from unknown sources.

The three others are: Harris Chowdhury, political secretary of then prime minister Zia between 2001 and 2006; Ziaul Islam Munna, Assistant Private Secretary (APS) to Harris; and Monirul Islam Khan, APS of former Dhaka city mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka.

The corruption case is one of dozens pending against Zia, who has been a rival to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for decades.

The charges against Zia had led to her boycotting polls in 2014, which triggered widespread protests at the time.

Currently, several cases are pending against Zia in various courts across the country. The BNP has claimed that the cases are politically-motivated to keep its party chief out of the national elections, set for December.