Bangladesh ex-PM Khaleda Zia sentenced to 5 years in jail

Zia Orphanage trust corruption case verdict

Zia was found guilty of embezzlement of 252,000 Dollars from a trust created for an orphanage in the name of her late husband and Bangladesh's former President Ziaur Rahman.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has announced a plan to hold countrywide protests on Friday. "I believe the court will acquit me of all charges", she said. These include former lawmaker Quazi Salimul Haq, former principal secretary to Zia, Kamal Uddin Siddique, her nephew Mominur Rahman and pro-BNP businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed.

The verdict would in effect entail Zia's non-partcipation in the upcoming general election in December.

Her lawyers said she planned to appeal against her conviction, and will mostly likely be freed on bail pending that process. "We didn't get justice".

Defence lawyer Khandakar Mahbub Hossain said, "We will go to the higher court against this".

"This is a false and staged case".

Zia will have to stay in jail for at least three days until Sunday. But she will be banned from running if she loses her final appeal in the Supreme Court, he said.

In that case, they will have to move the case on Sunday.

Bangladesh law says anyone imprisoned for more than two years can not run for office for the next five years, but Law Minister Anisul Huq said the final decision rests with the courts.

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TV footages showed Ms Zia stood in gloom covering her eyes in a dark sunglass as the security forces escorted the vehicle to the nearby jail. The police had to use tear gas shells to disperse the protesters.

About BNP's holding rallies nationwide today and tomorrow in protest against sentencing the party chief, Quader, also road transport and bridges minister, said BNP's protest was against the court as the court had delivered the verdict.

BNP senior leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi denounced the sentence, calling it "an attempt to eliminate the opponent".

Thousands of her supporters poured onto the streets and surrounded Zia's motorcade as they chanted anti-government slogans and moved on by cordoning off the motorcade as it slowly progressed.

Nazmul Haque Prodhan MP, a leader of a faction of the Awami League's partner Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, also demanded trial of those involved in financial scams.

The court has sentenced the other five people to 10 years in jail, Dhaka Tribune reported.

During the 2007-2008 tenure of the army-backed caretaker government, she was in jail for about a year on a charge of corruption.

The opposition boycotted the previous general election in 2014, saying the government would not guarantee fair results.

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