Dhaka court sentences former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to five years on corruption charges

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Correction — April 5, 2018
This article describes Judge Akhteruzzaman's court as a "high court", but sources do not support this characterization of the court.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

On Thursday, Dhaka high court sentenced former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to a five year prison term for corruption. Her son Tarique Rahman and four others involved in the case were each sentenced to ten years.

Zia was prosecuted for embezzling 21 million (about US$250 thousand) from foreign donations to an orphanage while she was prime minister. 72-year-old Zia, who became the first female to head the Bangladeshi government in 1991, was sent to jail minutes after the ruling. Her son Tarique Rahman, who lives in England, was not present for the hearing.

Judge Mohammad Akhteruzzaman said Zia "was given a shorter term considering her health and social status". According to the Law Minister Anisul Huq, Zia can apply for bail and also go to the Supreme Court. Zia's lawyer Khandker Mahbub Hossain said, "We didn't get justice. We'll go to the higher court". Per Bangladeshi law, if a person is jailed for over two years, they are ineligible to stand in election for a period of five years. Parliamentary polls of Bangladesh are scheduled to be conducted in December.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the ruling was "an attempt to eliminate the opponent" for the upcoming polls. Anisul Huq said the verdict "proves that Bangladesh has the rule of law and that no one is above the law". Huq also noted Zia would not be eligible to run for the December polls if she loses the case in the Supreme Court after the appeal.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said, "this verdict will deepen the country's existing political crisis and will damage people's faith in judiciary". Thousands of supporters of Zia gathered and protested against the ruling. According to news reports, protesters set fire to motorbikes, and police used teargas to disperse some crowds.