Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has been convicted and sentenced to five years in jail in a corruption case. It is considered a deep setback for the opposition BNP chief as she can be barred from contesting the next general election slated for December.
72-year-old Zia, was sentenced by the Special Court-5 in the capital, Dhaka, in connection with the embezzlement of 21 million takas (USD 252,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust. Her son Tarique Rahman and four others have been sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Prior to the verdict, clashes erupted between supporters of Khaleda Zia and police ahead of a corruption trial verdict against the ex-prime minister and main opposition BNP chief. The capital Dhaka was since morning wrapped in an unprecedented security blanket with government anticipated trouble.
Earlier, elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and armed police were called out to guard Dhaka’s streets to prevent BNP men from staging demonstration. The home minister, inspector general of police and the DMP commissioner warned of tough actions against troublemakers.
“We hope that the law and order will be normal and under control across the country. If anyone tries to disrupt law and order and threaten public safety, law enforcers will handle it strictly,” IGP Javed Patwary told reporters at the police headquarters.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League said their activists would be ready to “assist police” if the BNP tried to foment any unrest over the verdict.
Ahead of the veridct, Zia blamed the government for unleashing a “reign of terror” ahead of the verdict and claimed she was implicated in a “false case” but said she was ready to face any fate.
Her party had boycotted the 2014 polls over its demands for an election-time non-party government, and became the opposition outside parliament. But it is expected to contest the upcoming polls.
The ex-premier on November 30, 2014 lost her last ditch effort to evade the graft trial as the Supreme Court turned down her second ‘leave to appeal’ petition challenging her indictment and asked her to face trial in the lower court.
(With inputs from PTI)