BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia landed in jail after a Dhaka court found her guilty in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case on Thursday.
Judge Akhtaruzzaman of Dhaka Special Judge’s Court 5 in Bakshibazar delivered the verdict in the presence of Khaleda and her lawyers. The judge read out selected excerpts from the 632-page
She has been sent to the old Dhaka Central Jail in Nazimuddin Road, with only a domestic help keeping her company.
Khaleda will have to stay there for at least three days even if she gets bail.
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Agitated BNP activists start a fire in protest in a lane at Chankharpool after the verdict Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune
10 aspects examined whether:
1.Khaleda used Kamal to open an account with Sonali Bank for the Prime Minister’s Orphanage Fund in 1991
2.$1.2m was deposited in the account on June 9, 1991
3.Tk4.44cr (equivalent to the former amount) was deposited in the orphanage fund
4.The deposit grew to Tk4.66cr
5.Tk2.33cr was transferred from the fund to Zia Orphanage Trust and Tarique and Mominur transfer the money to Prime Bank
6. Kazi Salimul used his influence to transfer the money from one branch to another
7.Kazi Salimul benefitted by using his influence for another person’s benefit
8.The accused abused their power for mutual gains and misappropriated Tk2.1cr
9.The accused committed any crimes under Sections 109 and 409 of the Penal Code
10.Any actions were punishable offences
The court said the defence failed to prove their clients innocent and all charges against them were proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The verdict was delivered over 15 minutes, followed by a huge contingent of police escorting Khaleda to jail in her white SUV.
‘She got what she deserved’
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has once again accused her arch-rival Khaleda Zia of instigating violence in the country in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
“Where is she [Khaleda] today? Those who burnt people to death face such consequences, and justice is being done,” she said on Thursday, while addressing a rally at Bangabandhu Udyan in Barisal city,reports UNB.
The Barisal district and city units of Awami League jointly organized the rally with district unit president Abul Hasnat Abdullah in the chair.
Earlier in the day, Judge Dr Akhtaruzzaman of Dhaka’s Fifth Special Judge Court sentenced the former prime minister to five years’ imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
The same court also sentenced five other accused, including Khaleda’s son and BNP’s acting chairperson Tarique Rahman, to 10 years’ imprisonment and fined them Tk2.1 crore each.
Hasina, also the president of the ruling Awami League, said Khaleda had taken position in her office in 2015 declaring that she would not return home until the fall of Awami League government.
She also accused Khaleda of ordering her party men to torch some 3,500 cars, burn 500 people to death, and injure over 3,000 people in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
BNP: This verdict is against the law
Regarding the verdict, BNP Standing Committee member Barrister Moudud Ahmed told reporters at the party office in Naya Paltan why they believe the verdict is unlawful.
He said the trial was not held openly, which goes against the constitution. He claimed the evidence was false and did not have Khaleda’s signature. He noted the verdict was under Articles 409 and 109 of the Penal Code whereas it should have been under Article 5 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947.
Moudud added no criminal intent on the part of Khaleda was proven. Furthermore, the
witnesses did not work in the departments involved, and a plea against the evidence was not taken into cognizance, which the announced verdict did not explain.
What’s next for Khaleda?
Khaleda Zia’s lawyers will not receive a certified copy of the verdict till Sunday. The copy is required to file an appeal against the verdict with the High Court Division. Any delay, caused by the trial court, will delay the appeal.
BNP Standing Committee member Barrister Moudud Ahmed said collecting the verdict’s copy is of utmost priority.
He said: “We have to ensure bail for her and seek a stay on the verdict and hope the High Court would issue the bail immediately.
Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said the party will deal with the verdict with due legal procedure and through peaceful protest.
However, the bigger concern is whether Khaleda will be legally fit to participate in the upcoming election as she has been convicted for criminal breach of trust.
As per the constitution and election law, if someone is convicted for at least two years, he or she will not be able to participate in the polls for the next five years after serving the sentence. Although, Khaleda is currently ineligible, an appeal may turn the tables.
Even if the High Court grants her bail but upholds the conviction, or the appeal takes time, she will not be able to contest.
The conviction can be challenged with the Appellate Division. If the conviction is also upheld by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, she will have to serve the entire term. In which case, she will be unable to contest.
Only a stay of conviction and a bail will allow Khaleda to take part in the election.
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A motorbike among two set ablaze by seething protesters across the street from Matsya Bhaban after Khaleda Zia’s motorcade in Kakrail on Thursday Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune
A ‘missing’ BNP leader and a blitz procession
Habibun Nabi Shohel, president of Dhaka South BNP, was said to have been detained by law enforcement agencies on Tuesday after returning from Sylhet for Khaleda Zia’s visit. BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi maintained the claim, but Shohel appeared near Moghbazar immediately following the sudden emergence of a massive BNP procession surrounding Khaleda Zia’s motorcade.
Shohel, former president of Swechchasebak Dal, is well-known for his superb organizational capabilities. The procession, numbering in the thousands, was the largest gathering of BNP activists since 2015.
BNP processions for Khaleda’s motorcade generally congregate near the High Court area. Its unexpected appearance in Tejgaon Shatrastar Mor caught the authorities off-guard. Even, central BNP leaders at the party office appeared surprised and cheered when the scene was broadcast on TV.
The procession was like a beacon for the party leaders, who filed out of the office and made their way to the court in Bakshibazar.