Ex-Bangladesh PM Khaleda Zia gets 5 years in jail for corruption

Bangladesh court awards 5-year jail term to ex-PM Khaleda Zia in corruption case; nation on high alert

Bangladesh court awards 5-year jail term to ex-PM Khaleda Zia in corruption case; nation on high alert

BNP sources said the earliest they could file an appeal was on Sunday or Monday after receiving the certified copy of the 636-page order pronounced by Judge Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman.

"The verdict proves no one is above the law", Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Haque told Asia Times.

Zia has denied any misuse of worldwide funds donated to a charitable children's trust. Zia's son and heir apparent at the BNP, Tarique Rahman, and four others were sentenced to 10 years in jail in the same case.

Zia, 72, was sentenced by the Special Court-5 in the capital, Dhaka, in connection with misappropriation of 21 million takas ($252,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust. Zia's party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party had boycotted the last elections, giving Hasina's Awami League a walkover.

Following the verdict, local newspaper The Daily Star said Zia was taken to the Dhaka Central jail. "We will challenge the verdict in the higher court", he said.

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It is an interim arrangement as the party is expecting Zia to be given bail by the end of the next week.

Earlier, there were clashes between security forces and opposition protesters who had defied security measures to escort the auto taking Zia to court.

Five people were injured when police fired rubber bullets at protesters in the northeastern city of Sylhet, witnesses said. For which already 1000 BNP supporters the party headed by Khaleda had been arrested.

"It's up to the appeals court to decide whether she will be eligible to run", he said after the verdict. "But we do continue to call for an inclusive and democratic process in the country".

Thousands of Zia's supporters had gathered outside the court to hear the verdict amid a heavy deployment of security forces, who used teargas to disperse them.

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The Bangladesh government should publicly order the security forces to abide by global standards on policing demonstrations, Human Rights Watch said.

If Zia's No. 2 man, gentle and well-educated Mirza Alamgir decides to contest, it will allow BNP to re-invent itself.

BNP's absence will affect its influence across the country and weaken its ideological ally Jamiat-i-Islami.

"The Bangladesh government is violating the rights to free expression and peaceful assembly by preventing opposition supporters from demonstrating", said Brad Adams, the group's Asia director.

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