Bangladesh’s ex-PM Khaleda Zia attends court for graft cases hearing


DHAKA, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) — Bangladeshi ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who faces a spate of cases filed on charges of murder, sedition and graft, Thursday appeared before a court in capital Dhaka for hearing in two graft cases.

The court fixed Jan. 26 for the next hearing in the Zia Charitable Trust and Zia Orphanage Trust graft cases.

The proceedings in the graft cases started at the special court set up at an old Dhaka school.

Motorcade of Khaleda, also chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), reached the special makeshift court at about 11 a.m. (local time) when hundreds of her party supporters and leaders surrounded the Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court complex.

Police in riot gear kept a sharp vigil while the opposition chief was in court.

One of the cases was filed in July 2008, saying Khaleda and five others including her elder son Tarique Rahman had embezzled over 20 million taka (253,164 U.S. dollars) from an orphanage trust during her 2001-2006 prime minister term.

In 2011, the anti-graft body sued Khaleda and three others for pocketing 31.5 million taka (397,435 U.S. dollars) of the Zia Charitable Trust in the name of her late husband, former President Ziaur Rahman.

Experts say if the opposition chief is convicted in the cases, she might be barred from participating next general election slated for 2019.

Khaleda Zia has reportedly been facing 30 cases, including five on corruption charges and 15 for masterminding violence during their anti-government movement since 2014.

Of the five graft cases, according to the sources, the trial proceedings in Zia Charitable Trust and Zia Orphanage trust graft cases against Khaleda are almost complete.

Khaleda often said political vendettas are to blame for the cases against her and her sons during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s incumbent government, against which she has been leading the opposition procession from her party.

Political analysts say the key challenge for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) party leadership would be bringing the party in power with people’s mandate in the next general elections.

AL, which rose to power with a landslide election victory in early 2009 and won its second term in 2014, now eyes for the third consecutive victory, observers say.

This time AL is facing challenges from ex-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which boycotted the 2014 elections.

Some 21 parties including Khaleda Zia’s BNP boycotted the parliament elections as Hasina did not heed their demand for a non-party caretaker government to hold the polls.

BNP has still been demanding parliament polls under a non-party government.