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Bangladesh SC upholds bail for Khaleda Zia

IANS | Dhaka |

The Bangladesh Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld bail for opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia in a corruption case in which she is currently serving a five-year sentence.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain passed the order, dismissing the appeals filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission and the government challenging the High Court’s bail to Khaleda, reported.

However, the Supreme Court order will not pave the way for 72-year-old Khaleda to walk out of prison as her lawyers said she was being held behind bars in some other cases also.

BNP’s Legal Affairs Secretary Kayser Kamal said that Khaleda is facing 36 cases and has been summoned to appear on June 7 in the Comilla court regarding two cases.

Zia, chairperson of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was found guilty on February 8 of embezzling $252,000 in foreign donations for the Zia Orphanage Trust and was sentenced to prison.

She was later granted four months bail by the High Court on March 12. However, the apex court stayed the bail order following two petitions filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission and the government.

In the politically significant Zia Orphanage Trust graft case ahead of the next parliamentary elections slated for early 2019, the court also awarded 10 years’ jail to five others including Zia’s son Tarique Rahman, now acting chairman of BNP and living in London, with a fine of $250,000.

On Khaleda’s freedom from jail, BNP lawyer Moudud Ahmed said that the BNP chief had been made accused in a number of cases pending in the trial court.

“We have to try to seek bail in other cases as early as possible. As the Appellate Division upheld the High Court order, it would be easy to get the bail in other cases.”

BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the main motive of the graft case was to “malign” Khaleda and bar her from the upcoming elections.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League (AL) party earlier said the Khaleda Zia graft case verdict was totally a matter of the court and the party had nothing to do with it.