Former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has been sentenced to five years in jail for misappropriating funds meant for orphans, local media reported Thursday.
Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of the Special Court-5 sentenced the two-time former prime minister to rigorous imprisonment, after reading out some selective parts of the 632-page verdict.
“The verdict proves no one is above the law,” Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Haque said after the verdict that was announced amid tight security.
Zia, the chairperson of the country’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), along with five others had been charged after foreign donations intended for a charity went missing, and was now discovered to have been embezzled.
All six were accused of embezzling over Tk 21 million ($252,000) from foreign donations intended for a charity named after former president Ziaur Rahman, Zia’s husband.
The four others who were also given 10 year jail-term are former lawmaker Quazi Salimul Haq, former principal secretary to Zia, Kamal Uddin Siddique, Zia’s nephew Mominur Rahman and businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed.
The BNP has dismissed the case as politically motivated, Zia could be faced with the possibility of a life sentence.
Security was tight across Bangladesh in anticipation of the judgement by a special court in Dhaka with police checkpoints set up across the capital.
Ahead of the ruling, law enforcement used teargas to disperse several hundred opposition activists. Television footage showed police detaining a number of demonstrators, some of whom pelted bricks at officers.
Zia’s political future:
The verdict could possibly bar 72-year-old Zia from contesting in the general elections as the country’s constitution prohibits a convicted person with over two years jail-term from participating.
Appearance In Court:
Zia, decked in a cream colored printed chiffon sari, a shawl of the same colour, and sunglasses appeared nonchalant while hearing the verdict. She didn’t give any reactions.
After the verdict, she was taken at the Woman Cell and Daycare Centre at the old Dhaka Central jail. The Jail authorities have already renovated the cell.
Zia served as prime minister from 1991 to 1996 and then from 2001 to 2006.