Khaleda Zia’s sentence stayed for another 6 months

Khaleda Zia

Dhaka: Bangladesh’s government has stayed the sentence of former prime minister and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia in two graft cases for another six months following an appeal by her family members, allowing her to stay out of jail for that duration, a senior minister said on Sunday.

The 76-year-old chief of main Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), who is serving a 17-year jail term on charges of embezzling foreign donations, was temporarily released from prison in March 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension of Zia’s prison sentence has been extended by six months twice before. It was last extended in March, 2021 and the extension expired on September 15.

‘Khaleda Zia’s family, specifically her younger brother … made a petition to extend the time, subject to conditions,’ Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan was quoted as saying by the bdnews24.com on Sunday.’We scrutinised his application and then approved it.’ However, Zia will not be able to leave the country during the extension period.

‘She can receive her treatment at home in whatever way she wants. But she cannot leave the country. The conditions that were previously set for her release will be maintained,’ Khan said.

Zia contracted the Covid-19 virus in early April. As per the doctors, she has been facing post-Covid complications.

In May, Zia’s younger brother Shamim Eskandar met the home minister to seek permission for her treatment abroad. The application was forwarded to the Law Ministry.

The government, however, rejected her petition to go abroad on a medical visit, saying ‘there is no judicial provision that permits a jailed convict to go abroad for treatment’.

In July, Law Minister Anisul Haq said in Parliament that Zia must confess her wrongdoings and apologise to the President if she wants to go abroad for treatment. The BNP, however, maintained that she had no reason to do so as she was innocent.

Zia is serving a 17-year prison term in two graft cases since February 8, 2018.

She was sent to jail by a local court on charges of embezzling foreign donations meant for an orphanage, named after her slain husband and president Ziaur Rehman, during her premiership between 2001 and 2006.

Rehman, a military ruler-turned-politician, was the founder of the BNP. She was convicted in another corruption case later the same year, though her party claims both cases are politically motivated.

Zia has served thrice as the premier of Bangladesh since 1991. Her party suffered a miserable defeat in the 2018 elections bagging only six seats in the 300-seat parliament.

 

Agency